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Blocking a key regulator of autoimmunity reduces the inflammation associated with multiple sclerosis.

A protein found on the surface of some immune cells regulates autoimmunity in multiple sclerosis, a new study has found. Blocking the protein’s activity reduced the inflammation associated with the disease.

Researchers studied the role that the aryl hydrocarbon receptor – a protein found on specific immune cells called T cells – plays in autoimmunity in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. They bred mice that lacked the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and examined the effects its absence had on T cell activity.

They found that the absence of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor altered the types and numbers of microbial metabolites produced in the animals' guts. Specifically, the microbes produced more bile acids and short-chain fatty acids – both of which exhibit robust anti-inflammatory properties.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive autoimmune disorder that targets the central nervous system. A dominant feature of MS is inflammation of the nerves. T cells play an instrumental role in the inflammation and pathophysiology of MS.

These findings suggest that blocking the key regulator of inflammation in MS prevents the inflammation associated with the disease. Some evidence suggests that the fasting-mimicking diet reduces the number of autoimmune cells in people with multiple sclerosis. Learn more in this episode featuring Dr. Valter Longo.

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