Dr. Bibiana Bielekova, an investigator at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, said the discovery helps define the effects of one of the newest drugs -- daclizumab -- under investigation for treating MS.
Clinical trials have shown daclizumab appears to help quiet the autoimmune response in MS patients, but its precise effects on the legions of cells that make up the immune system are not fully understood, Beilokova said.
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed one effect of daclizumab is to thin the ranks of lymphoid tissue inducer cells, which are known to promote the development of lymph nodes and related tissues during fetal life, although their role during adulthood has been unclear.
The study is the first to implicate lymphoid tissue inducer cells in any human autoimmune disorder, Bielekova said.
"While further study is required to confirm the role of lymphoid tissue inducer cells in autoimmunity, our results point to the cells as a promising target for the development of new drugs to treat autoimmune disorders," Bielekova said in a statement.