MS is a condition where a person's immune system mistakenly attacks the brain and spinal cord. The resulting damage can cause a range of symptoms and disability.
Why the immune system mistakenly attacks the body is unknown. Dr Trend and her team are investigating whether there are any intrinsic differences between immune cell functions in people with MS compared to people without MS. She is doing this by examining immune cells from the blood of people with MS and those without MS. The team are examining whether cells from people with MS are primed to give a more inflammatory response when exposed to antibodies (small proteins produced by the immune system that bind foreign substances that invade the body and activate the immune system) compared to those who don't have MS. They will also investigate whether people at an early MS stage have the same responses to antibodies as those with more advanced disease.
Dr Trend has made great progress with this project, resulting in publication of her results in a prestigious scientific journal, Frontiers in Immunology. She has shown that an immune cell type called B cells are uniquely altered in women with MS. B cells are responsible for producing antibodies to fight infection. As a built-in feedback loop, some B cells have a sensor molecule that detects when antibodies have been produced, and dampens down the B cell immune response so that it does not become excessive. However, Dr Trend showed that the levels of this sensor molecule are reduced in B cells of women with MS. This could reduce their capacity to switch off autoimmune responses and also influence the capacity to fight infections such as with Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), which is associated with increased risk of MS.
You can read more about these findings here.
The next stage of the research will examine some of the downstream pathways within the B cell when the sensor molecule is triggered by antibodies, to better understand this phenomenon. Dr Trend will also continue her analysis of another immune cell group involved in inflammation, called myeloid cells.
Updated: 16 May 2021
Updated: 21 January, 2020
Laboratory research that investigates scientific theories behind the possible causes, disease progression, ways to diagnose and better treat MS.
Research that builds on fundamental scientific research to develop new therapies, medical procedures or diagnostics and advances it closer to the clinic.
Clinical research is the culmination of fundamental and translational research turning those research discoveries into treatments and interventions for people with MS.