Multiple Sclerosis and Regulatory T Cells

  • Jonathon Hutton
  • Clare Baecher-Allan
  • David A. Hafler


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex genetic disease associated with inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) white matter. This disease thought to be mediated by an autoimmune processes, involves autoreactive T cells and the clonal expansion of B cells and their antibody products. Consistent with this hypothesis, MS is associated with major histocompatibility complex genes, the occurrence of inflammatory white matter infiltrates, and can be treated with immunomodulatory and immunosuppressive therapies. The underlying disease pathology is thought to be caused by autoreactive myelin-specific effector T cells that enter into the CNS. Whilst autoreactive T cells are present in the periphery of healthy individuals, other regulatory mechanisms exist to prevent autoreactive T cells from causing immune disorders. Active suppression by regulatory T (Treg) cells plays a key role in the control of self-antigen-reactive T cells and the induction of peripheral tolerance in vivo. In particular, the importance of antigen-specific Treg cells in conferring genetic resistance to organ specific autoimmunity and in limiting autoimmune tissue damage has been documented in many disease models including MS. The current consensus suggests that the frequency of Tregs in MS patients is unchanged from controls, but their function measured in vitro may be diminished, correlating with impaired inhibitory activity in vivo. This chapter discusses the immunopathology of MS with particular focus given to regulatory T cells and their potential for the development of new therapies to treat this disease.


Multiple Sclerosis Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Multiple Sclerosis Patient Treg Cell Central Nervous System Inflammation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathon Hutton
  • Clare Baecher-Allan
  • David A. Hafler
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Molecular ImmunologyCenter for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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