Autoimmune diseases like MS arise from complex interactions between risk factors such as genetics and the environment.
There is increasing evidence that cigarette smoking increases not only the risk of developing MS, but also accelerates disease progression.
A recent study in Argentina aimed to clarify the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of cigarette smoking in MS. They found that smoking was a risk factor for early conversion to clinically definite MS among patients with clinically isolated syndrome. Disease progression was more rapid in patients who smoke compared to non-smokers.
White blood cells
They investigated two pathways, which are affected in subjects who smoke. Both conditions lead to increased production of inflammatory agents that can alter the function of white blood cells, which are responsible for promoting demyelination. Both pathways contributed to a significant decrease in the number of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells in MS patients.
These findings further underline the importance of modifiable MS risk factors, such as smoking. Public health measures to counter these factors might facilitate disease prevention.
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