2 Types of MS, Study Reveals
Blood Test Would Predict Success of Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
Two Routes to MS continued...
Humans, too, appear to have different kinds of MS. Steinman and colleagues
tested blood samples taken before treatment from 26 MS patients. Six of the 12
patients who did not respond to beta interferon had high levels of Th17 in
These patients with Th17 immune responses also had high levels of beta
interferon in their blood -- before beta interferon treatment. That means
one of two things:
- In patients with Th17-type MS, beta interferon doesn't help because beta
interferon levels already are high.
- In patients with Th17-type MS, beta interferon doesn't fight inflammation
-- it makes inflammation worse. In this case, just as in mice with Th17-induced
disease, beta interferon would exacerbate MS.
New Hope for MS Patients
"We are very excited about this kind of discovery, because there are new
therapy approaches that focus on Th17 immune pathways," Yeaman tells WebMD. "We
don't know the answers yet, but we are starting to see the dots on the page --
and if we can connect the dots, perhaps a new treatment or cure can
People with MS are likely to see a benefit long before new treatments
emerge. Blood tests already exist that can tell MS patients whether they have
Th1 or Th17 disease. Those with Th17 disease can be spared having to undergo
the side effects of beta interferon treatment, while those with Th1 disease can
endure side effects knowing that the treatment is highly likely to work.
"When first diagnosed with MS, the first question a person asks is, 'What
can I expect? How bad will it be?'" O'Looney says. "It would it be great if we
can identify something to say, 'This person has this makeup and 10 years from
now may be OK, or that person may need more aggressive therapy."
Despite their enthusiasm over the new findings, all of the experts consulted
for this article caution that the new findings must be validated in large
numbers of MS patients. All warn that it's too soon for patients to seek
testing or to make treatment decisions on the basis of these preliminary
The study findings appear in the March 28 advance online issue of Nature