OMRF reports MS research

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 By: Journal Record Staff Source: The Journal Record

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists have made a discovery that could open doors to new treatments for multiple sclerosis.

OMRF researcher Bob Axtell and graduate student James Quinn found that, in laboratory mice, a particular white blood cell (known as TFH cells) seems to play a key role in MS.

“Multiple sclerosis is a complex disease, where several different types of white blood cells drive relapses and disability in MS,” said Axtell, an assistant member in OMRF’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Program. “Two subtypes of blood cells known to drive diseases are B cells and T cells. But, it’s not entirely clear how these cells communicate to drive this devastating disease. What James figured out was that the TFH cells are actually communicating with the B cells in this disease.”

To better understand what triggers MS disease in mice, Axtell and Quinn looked at the newly discovered TFH cells.

“It has been known that white blood cells groups called T cells and B cells cooperate in MS, but how they cooperate has been a mystery,” said Quinn. “Our study shows that TFH cells communicate with B cells to drive severe disease.”

The next steps will be further research to explore how TFH influences the development of MS and whether blocking it could lead to effective therapies for patients.

“This is still early-stage work, but it holds exciting clinical potential,” said Axtell.

Axtell joined OMRF in 2013 from Stanford University. Quinn, who has worked in Axtell’s lab for three years, is a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The research was published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Immunology. Other OMRF researchers who contributed to the findings were Agnieshka Agasing, Gaurav Kumar and Rose Ko.

This research was funded by grants awarded to Axtell from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the National Eye Institute and a training grant awarded to Quinn from the National Institutes of Health.

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