Infiltrating Inflammatory cells from the blood are believed to be the cause of injury to the brain and spinal cord in MS. What attracts these cells into the nervous system is not known. The chief suspects are virus infected cells, or alternatively, normal cells in the brain and spinal cord that the immune system has mistakenly identified as ‘foreign’ cells’ that need to be eliminated. The present study was designed to track the invading cells in order to see what cells they interact with and kill.
Prof Prineas has identified a particularly dangerous type of invading white blood cell in MS tissue, a cell referred to as a cytotoxic CD8 T cell. Prof Prineas has discovered that these cells appear not to be directly targeting myelin or the cells that make myelin but another cell, a cell located in damaged tissue undergoing repair.
Furthermore Prof Prineas reports that the unidentified target of cytotoxic T cells in MS may be cells normally associated with blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord, cells known as astrocytes. If further work shows this to be true, the observation will have an important influence on future research into the cause of MS.
Professor John Prineas from the University of Sydney has won the prestigious Charcot Award from the MS International Federation, recognising a life-time of outstanding contribution to MS research. Prof Prineas has been at the forefront of neuropathology in MS. His recent findings of sick and dying cells in the early stages of MS - prior to the autoimmune response - have revolutionised our understanding of the disease, and provide hope for new therapies including the potential to repair the neural damage, characteristic of MS.
This is the first time an Australian has won this biennial award since it's inception in 1969.
Updated: 06 January, 2007