Cell-type-specific changes linked to the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) are reported online in Nature. The study highlights various biomarkers that could be used to help to characterize the disease, as well as targets that could help researchers to develop novel therapies in future.
MS is a chronic disease of the brain and spinal cord, which is thought to occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy nerve cells in the body, eventually producing brain lesions. The precise cell-type-specific mechanisms that underlie the progression of MS are not well understood.
David Rowitch and colleagues studied the patterns of gene expression in single cells taken from the brains of 12 deceased individuals who had MS, and compared them with samples from the brains of people who did not have MS. They find evidence for the upregulation of various stress pathways in cortical neurons and non-neuronal cells of the nervous system. Large numbers of immune cells, called B cells, were found in the tissues of individuals with MS, where they formed aggregates containing lesion stage-specific subsets of cells. B cells are known to have a role in MS, but this finding suggests that B-cell-depleting therapies may be beneficial for the treatment of the neurodegenerative features of this disease.