May 23, 2024
Immune System

B Cells: Unheralded Orchestrators of Immune Responses in Multiple Sclerosis, Potentially Targeted by New Class of Drugs

New research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania challenges the long-held belief that T cells are the sole instigators of immune responses. Instead, the study reveals that B cells play a crucial role in controlling the actions of myeloid cells through the secretion of specific cytokines.

In the context of multiple sclerosis (MS), this discovery sheds new light on the disease’s underlying mechanisms. Abnormal respiration in B cells triggers pro-inflammatory responses in myeloid cells and T cells, leading to the destruction of the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers and ultimately causing MS symptoms.

Historically, experts believed that MS was primarily driven by overactive T cells. However, this research underscores the importance of intercellular communication and the active role B cells play in modulating myeloid cells within the immune system.

BTK inhibitors, an emerging class of drugs, show promise in altering the abnormal B cell respiration and halting the signaling that contributes to MS flare-ups. The findings were published in Science Immunology on May 3, 2023.

Amit Bar-Or, MD, a professor of Neurology and director of Penn’s Center for Neuroinflammation and Neurotherapeutics, explains, “We used to think that T cells were the primary orchestrators of immune responses, and that MS was mainly caused by overly active T cells. This research demonstrates that it’s the intricate interactions between multiple cell types that truly matter, and that B cells play a much more significant role in the immune system than we previously understood.”

A well-functioning immune system is constantly responding to stimuli by activating or suppressing immune responses, in part through the release of various cytokines that dictate how other cell types behave. Normally, every immune response elicits a counter response, maintaining the delicate balance between immune responses.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
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