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A single autoimmune target found in most children with demyelinating disease

A/Professor Russell Dale and Dr Fabienne Brilot-Turville from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead are leading researchers in the field of paediatric MS, the form of the disease that affects children. It is estimated that between 3-5% of all MS cases begin in childhood. While a lot is known about paediatric MS, the molecular target in the brain which is attacked by the immune system remains unknown.

A/Professor Dale and Dr Brilot-Turville’s research has focussed on a particular myelin component called myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) which could be the subject of attack in paediatric MS. They have recently published new research in conjunction with members of International Paediatric Multiple Sclerosis Study Group, looking at MOG in demyelinating diseases in children, including MS.

Published in the prestigious Journal of Immunology, the researchers examined 111 patients who had previously been identified as reactive to MOG. In their extensive testing, they found MOG reactivity in 98 of 111 patients across the different demyelinating diseases. Seven different regions of MOG were reactive, but different reactivity regions were not associated with specific disease types. In half the patients, a single MOG region was identified as the autoimmune target, while the other half had multiple targets. Remarkably, most with a single target were found to have the same target, even across the diseases.

The researchers also found that in children who were followed over five years, the target was constant and did not ‘spread’ to other regions over time. This kind of spreading has been reported for other autoimmune targets in MS and is thought to be one mechanism which underlies the persistence of the disease.

This work is important since in people with single targets that remain constant over time, therapies can be designed that specifically block this attack. It also shows that a therapy against one region may be useful in a majority of children with demyelinating disease, removing the need to redesign treatments for each individual patient. While the application of these findings are still a long way from the clinic, this type of research paves the way for a promising future treatment option for paediatric MS.

Please see here to read more about A/Professor Russell Dale and Dr Fabienne Brilot-Turville’s research funded by MS Research Australia.

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A single autoimmune target found in most children with demyelinating disease