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31 - 01 - 2018

Multiple sclerosis: humans’ secret revealed

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a much more common autoimmune disease in women than in men. Testosterone protects men, but the mechanism behind this has remained unknown until recently.


Using a mouse model of MS and in vitro studies, researchers identified the molecule that protects males. This chemical is the interleukin 33 or IL33 whose production is favoured by testosterone.



IL33 is an actor of immunity that triggers a cascade of reactions that ultimately prevents the development of Th17 cells. It is these cells that attack the myelin sheath of neurons causing MS.


In this MS mouse model, females develop stronger myelin deficits than males. The researchers were able to verify that a treatment with IL33 stops this attack.


This is an important finding as MS treatments focus on suppressing immune activity in patients, making them susceptible to infection. In addition, the administration of testosterone sometimes used to treat MS is not viable in the long term.


The discovery of the beneficial and very specific effect of IL33 injections opens a new therapeutic pathway that may be of interest for the treatment of other autoimmune diseases.


The search is ongoing.