Research in humans and animals suggests that CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T-cells, called Tregs, may be linked with how quickly Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) progresses.

Tregs are defined as regulatory immune cells that are involved in shutting down immune responses after they have successfully eliminated invading organisms from the body.

According to researchers, they play an important role in regulating other cells in the immune system, preventing them from attacking the body’s own healthy cells and tissues.

“We wanted to understand the relationship between Tregs and ALS. We measured the levels of Tregs in patients with ALS, and we found that the disease progressed significantly more slowly in patients who had higher numbers of Tregs in their blood,” states Dr Fiona McKay from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, co-lead author of the study, in a media release from Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

The team also studied the relationship between Tregs and ALS in mice, by increasing Treg populations in work conducted in Associate Professor Brad Turner’s laboratory at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne, the release continues.

“Treg populations were expanded in the mouse model using a treatment never previously used for this disease. Not only did the disease progress more slowly, but the motor neurons were preserved.”

“This extends the findings of our human studies, and we are now investigating strategies to increase Tregs in patients with ALS. We hope this will ultimately lead to new therapies to treat the disease,” McKay concludes.

The study was published recently in JAMA Neurology.

[Source(s): Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Science Daily]