Changes During Pregnancy Could Hold Key To Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

In Education

Pregnant women may offer a potential solution for addressing autoimmune diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). Studies show that women with MS experience notable symptom improvement during pregnancy, followed by a worsening of their condition after childbirth. Linköping University researchers are exploring these immune system changes during pregnancy, aiming to uncover insights that could lead to innovative treatments for autoimmune diseases.

MS and arthritis symptoms improve during pregnancy

Autoimmune diseases, like MS and arthritis, occur when the immune system becomes overactive and damages healthy tissues. For instance in MS, the immune system attacks the fatty sheath around nerve fibers, causing nerve damage, inflammation, and chronic pain.

The study shows that mother’s immune system during pregnancy becomes more tolerant to avert fetal rejection, leading to a 70% reduction in MS symptoms during the last trimester. This pattern is also observed in other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers investigated the mechanisms underlying symptom reduction in multiple sclerosis (MS) by comparing blood samples from 11 women with MS to those from seven healthy women before, during, and after pregnancy. The study focused on T cells, essential components of the immune system involved in MS and pregnancy.

Gene network changes during pregnancy prevent MS symptoms

The analysis revealed changes in gene networks within T cells during pregnancy, with many genes linked to MS and crucial immune processes. According to Sandra Hellberg, an assistant professor at Linköping University, the immune system of pregnant women with MS closely resembles that of healthy pregnant women during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, T cell alterations in women with MS coincide with a decrease in relapse frequency, peaking in the final trimester. The positive effects reverse post-pregnancy, resulting in a temporary surge in disease activity before returning to pre-pregnancy levels. Pregnancy hormones, specifically progesterone, regulate the gene networks involved in these changes. Ongoing laboratory experiments aim to replicate these effects using hormones, offering potential avenues for treatment development.

The study employs network analysis, created by Professor Mika Gustafsson at Linköping University, to pinpoint genes interacting with targeted ones. This method unveils abnormal regulation of interconnected genes, impacting disease processes indirectly.

Mobile Sliding Menu