A shift from adaptive to innate immunity: a potential mechanism of disease progression in multiple sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis is postulated to be a T cell-mediated autoimmune disease characterised by a relapsing-remitting stage followed by a secondary progressive phase. The relapsing remitting phase may involve waves of proinflammatory Th1 and Th17 cells that infiltrate the nervous system, provoking a clinical attack. The activity of these cells is modulated by other populations of regulatory T cells and the balance between the pro-inflammatory and regulatory T cells is critical for determining disease activity. Promoting the activity of regulatory cells is a potentially beneficial therapeutic strategy, and probably contributes to the action of glatiramer acetate. The progressive phase of multiple sclerosis is believed to be secondary to neurodegenerative changes triggered by inflammation. The status of the innate immune system and its relationship to the stages of multiple sclerosis has been poorly defined until recently. However, recent data suggest that these results demonstrate abnormalities of dendritic cell activation or maturation may underlie the transition to the progressive phase of the disease. Preventing this transition, perhaps by acting at the level of the innate immune system, is an important treatment goal. The identification of biomarkers to predict disease course and treatment response is a major challenge in multiple sclerosis research. Studies using antigen arrays have identified antibody patterns related to CNS antigens and heat-shock proteins that are associated with different disease stages and with response to therapy. In the future, such antibody repertoires could be used as biomarkers for the diagnosis and evaluation of patients with multiple sclerosis, for matching treatments to individual patients and, potentially, to identify healthy individuals at risk for this autoimmune disease.

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Correspondence to Howard L. Weiner.

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Weiner, H.L. A shift from adaptive to innate immunity: a potential mechanism of disease progression in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol 255, 3–11 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-008-1002-8

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Key words

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • immune system
  • inflammation
  • T-cell
  • regulatory cells
  • innate immune system
  • neurodegeneration