Why Does Pregnancy Improve MS? 2023

Pregnancy is immunologically unique. Our immune system fights foreign substances. The mother’s immune system doesn’t reject the father’s half of the foetus’ genetic material. Because the mother’s immune system becomes more tolerant during pregnancy, this balancing act usually works.

MS occurs when the immune system attacks the fat that insulates nerve fibers. Inflammation damages nerves. Most MS patients decline despite new and better treatments.

The transient immune response dampening may explain why pregnant MS patients improve. Relapses drop by 70% in the third trimester.

Rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, improves during pregnancy. But why? This is why the researchers behind this study intended to understand what pathways may be important for the decrease in symptoms during pregnancy to identify future therapeutic techniques for MS and other related conditions.

The researchers focused on immune system T cells. During pregnancy, T lymphocytes drive MS. 11 MS patients and 7 healthy women had blood samples obtained before, during, and after pregnancy.

The researchers found T cell genes utilized during pregnancy to explain immune cell activity. Epigenetic alterations affecting gene expression were also examined. Researchers focused on DNA methylation in their study.

“What was possibly most striking is that we couldn’t find any real differences between the groups during pregnancy, as it seems that the immune system of a pregnant woman with MS looks roughly like that of a healthy pregnant woman,” says Sandra Hellberg, assistant professor at Linköping University’s Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences and one of the study’s researchers.

Researchers uncovered pregnancy-related gene networks.

They found that these genes are strongly connected to the illness and immune system functions.

“T cell changes match relapse frequency reduction. MS patients improve best in the third trimester. After pregnancy, when disease activity rises, these modifications reverse. Sandra Hellberg emphasizes that disease activity returns to pre-pregnancy levels.

Pregnancy hormones regulated progesterone-controlled genes. The researchers are trying hormones in the lab to replicate the study’s results to determine whether they can be used as a therapy.

Long-term collaboration between medical and bioinformatics specialists produced this research. Network analysis, developed over several years by a Linköping University research group directed by Mika Gustafsson, has helped the project grasp the vast quantity of data.

Network analysis helps researchers uncover highly interacting genes. Other network genes are often abnormally regulated and indirectly impact disease processes.

“Such insights can help find alternative medications and new biomarkers to distinguish disease subgroups. “We have used this strategy successfully for analysis in research into allergy and multiple sclerosis,” says Mika Gustafsson, professor of bioinformatics, who is now offering the analysis to other researchers through a new firm.

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