March 1, 2024
EBV-Specific T Cells Identified as Potential Contributors to Multiple Sclerosis Development

EBV-Specific T Cells Identified as Potential Contributors to Multiple Sclerosis Development

A recent study led by the University of Texas Health Houston suggests that the body’s immune response to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may play a significant role in causing damage in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). While EBV infection has long been associated with MS, the exact mechanism by which the infection contributes to the disease has remained unclear. In most cases, the virus remains in its latent stage and does not cause any problems. However, the study reveals that T cells specific to the EBV infection may be responsible for the development of MS.

The research, led by Assaf Gottlieb, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Center for Precision Health at McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics, and J. William Lindsey, MD, Professor in the Department of Neurology at McGovern Medical School, demonstrates that T cells specific to EBV-infected cells are found in high numbers in the cerebrospinal fluid of individuals with early-stage MS. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples from eight patients undergoing MS diagnosis. The researchers stimulated the patients’ blood cells with different stimuli, including EBV-infected lymphoblastoid cell lines, cell-free EBV, varicella zoster virus (chickenpox), influenza virus, and candida. They then used RNA sequencing for T cell receptors to determine the response of cerebrospinal fluid T cells to these stimuli.

The findings indicate a clear enrichment of T cells specific to EBV-infected cell lines in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with MS, which was distinct from other neurologic diseases. On average, 13% of the T cells in the cerebrospinal fluid of individuals showing early symptoms of MS were specific to B lymphocytes infected with EBV, establishing a clear link between the virus and MS. In the most expanded cerebrospinal fluid clones, which are highly likely to contribute to MS pathogenesis, the abundance of EBV-specific T lymphocytes was even higher, at 47%. The study also revealed that T cells specific to other common infections did not show a similar abundance in the cerebrospinal fluid.

The data obtained from this study strongly suggest that T cells specific to EBV-infected cells are present in the cerebrospinal fluid during the early stages of MS, indicating their potential involvement in either causing or contributing to the disease. The researchers are currently conducting further experiments to determine the precise role of these cells in MS pathogenesis.

EBV is a member of the herpes virus family, primarily spread through bodily fluids, especially saliva, and can cause infectious mononucleosis and other illnesses. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, affecting over 1.8 million people globally, with symptoms varying widely between patients. Severe cases of MS can result in the loss of independent mobility. At present, there is no cure for the disease.

The study’s co-authors include H. Phuong T. Pham, Ph.D., formerly with the Department of Neurology at McGovern Medical School and now with The University of Texas at Dallas, and Jerome G. Saltarrelli, Ph.D., with the medical school’s Department of Surgery.

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