And yet again the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) worlds is hyping another paper. This time around, the authors have shown that a protein of the Epstein-Barr virus resembles at the molecular level an endogenous protein present in neurons. This would explain why in MS B cells generate antibodies (and contribute to T-cell response) against one’s own neuronal cells.

The study is behind paywall but here is the link for a nice lay summary of the findings:

From my side just to say that when I first entered the MS field there were still doubts regarding the autoimmune component of MS. Was the immune response against one’s own brain cells due to molecular mimicry or due to bystander activation?

  • Molecular mimicry: an adequate immune response against a foreign pathogen (virus, bacteria, fungi, etc) generates B-cells and T-cells that have the capacity to recognise that pathogen and components of the human body that are molecularly similar.
  • Bystander activation: an adequate response against a foreign pathogen takes place in an area with some self-damage (or causes it) and in the “heat of the battle”, the immune system cannot distinguish what is foreign and a treat from what is self and harmless. Hence, it specifically creates cells to attack that part of the body.

Both become a problem when the immune cells remain active after the pathogen has been cleared “by seeing” the body part as a foreign treat, hence causing some destructive friendly fire.

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