A misguided immune system that incorrectly identifies the central nervous system as a target is believed to be the cause of much of the damage seen in Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Activated immune system cells enter the brain and spinal cord where they cause inflammation and damage. The immune system is highly complex and understanding how the system changes in MS as well as the many steps in the inflammatory process are critical to a complete understanding of the disease process as well as developing effective treatments.
We have an ongoing study of a potassium channel called Kv1.3 which is much more highly expressed on chronically activated immune cells that get into MS brain tissue than on circulating immune cells that are needed to fight off infection.
Expression of the potassium channel Kv1.3 in infiltrating lymphocytes
in areas of active demyelination in the brain tissues.
Blocking this channel with drugs inhibits the function of these cells, and protects nerve tissue from damage in animal models. New channel blockers are being developed in hopes of developing a more specific therapy for MS. This research is conducted by members of Dr. Peter Calabresi’s lab.