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Finding ways to prevent a rare side effect of some MS treatments

Photo: Close up of researcher using a pippette
Lead researcher:
Dr Marieke Pingen
Based at:
University of Glasgow
MS Society funding:

About the project

Progressive multi-focal leukoencaphalopathy (PML) is a rare but potentially fatal infection of the brain. It's caused by a virus that can develop in patients treated with natalizumab and other MS treatments.

Antibodies are produced by our immune system to help our bodies fight infections. Recent research has found people with MS who have a specific type of antibody in their brain have a lower risk of developing PML. Studies using “brain-in-a-dish” cultures and mice have found these antibodies cause a specific response which protects brain cells from infections by viruses.

In this project, researchers hope to find out whether this mechanism can be used to prevent PML. They aim to identify how these antibodies cause the response in mice, and whether they're able to stop the replication of the virus in human brain cells.

How will it help people with MS?

Natalizumab is a highly effective treatment for active relapsing MS, but it can increase someone’s chances of developing PML. Although the risk of developing PML is very low, the outcome can be very serious, and up to one in four people who get PML die.

Understanding more about the biological mechanisms of PML will help researchers develop a strategy to treat and prevent it. This will improve treatment options for people with MS by reducing the risk of PML associated with some treatments.

The difference you can make

You can help us improve treatment options for people with MS.