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According to German scientists, the gut may play a role in the development of multiple sclerosis. Cellular phenomena responsible for MS may have been identified in the intestines.

1| The Smad7 protein, responsible for CNS inflammation

At present, it is still difficult to categorically establish the causes of multiple sclerosis (MS). But both environmental and genetic factors are usually involved(1).

German scientists suspect the gut of playing a role in the development of some autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, in particular MS. In a study in mice, a team of neurologists demonstrated that the Smad7 protein, present in large quantities in immune cells, triggered inflammation of the central nervous system. According to the team, this mechanism could at least partially explain the development of multiple sclerosis.(2)

In practice, a high level of the Smad7 protein in the immune cells in the mice caused symptoms similar to those found in MS. However, in the genetically modified group of mice, without Smad7 protein, the researchers did not identify any signs of MS or related diseases. 

They also took intestinal tissue samples from 27 MS patients to compare these with samples taken from 27 healthy subjects. As in the mice, Smad7 protein levels were shown to be higher in the MS patients than in the healthy volunteers(2).

2| A new target for the treatment of MS

To date, the majority of clinical trials conducted o, multiple sclerosis and the treatments to be implemented have not been very conclusive(3).

However, the recent study conducted by the German team raises new hope for the future discovery of new treatments. The study demonstrates that overexpression of the Smad7 protein increases central nervous system inflammation, related to the migration of T cells from the gut to the brain. Hence, as in Crohn’s disease, the Smad7 protein could be a therapeutic target for new drugs in the treatment of MS(2).

3| Sources

  1. J. Kamińska, OM. Koper, K. Piechal K, H. Kemona,  Multiple sclerosis - etiology and diagnostic potential, Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2017 Jun 30;71(0):551-563. Doi : 10.5604/01.3001.0010.3836.
  2.  Steffen Haupeltshofer, Teresa Leichsenring, Sarah Berg, Xiomara Pedreiturria, Stephanie C. Joachim, Iris Tischoff, Jan-Michel Otte, Tobias Bopp, Massimo C. Fantini, Charlotte Esser, Dieter Willbold, Ralf Gold, Simon Faissner,and Ingo Kleiter, Smad7 in intestinal CD4+ T cells determines autoimmunity in a spontaneous model of multiple sclerosis, PNAS December 17, 2019 116 (51) 25860-25869; first published December 3, 2019. 
  3.  J. Correale, MI. Gaitán, MC. Ysrraelit, MP. Fiol, Brain. 2017 Mar 1;140(3):527-546. Progressive multiple sclerosis: from pathogenic mechanisms to treatment. Doi : 10.1093/brain/aww258.