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ICB-MS project

Laatste wijziging: 24 January 2022

In vitro analysis of immune cell balance in multiple sclerosis and the effect of salt on this interaction


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, characterized by a demyelination which causes neurologic deficits. MS incidence increased over time in the Western world and the current treatments have important limitations, particularly in progressive MS. MS is the result of an auto-immune response to auto-antigens (in genetically susceptible individuals) in which the immune system is disturbed. Besides genetic factors, environmental factors are involved in the disease pathobiology. High-salt diet disturbs EAE by the induction of T-helper (Th) cells 17. In addition, salt inhibits the suppressive function of regulatory T-cells (Tregs), an essential mechanism associated with MS pathobiology. These findings are confirmed by a clinical study that shows a connection between a high intake of sodium, and an increased activity of the disease in MS patients. Innate immune cells such as macrophages play a role in MS pathogenesis, and are influenced by the intake of sodium.


The goal of the project is to study the phenotypic and functional changes of pro- and anti-
inflammatory immune cells, eg. Th17, Tregs and M1- and M2-type macrophages in patients with MS and healthy controls. In addition, we aim to determine whether immune cells of MS patients show signs of a salt-signature, indicating a role for this environmental factor in the development of the disease. To that end, immune cells from peripheral blood samples from MS patients and healthy donors will be isolated. Flow cytometric immunophenotyping and functional in vitro assays will be carried out under normal or high salt concentrations. In addition, genetic and proteomic profiles will be studied in the above samples/conditions. For this purpose, DNA, RNA and proteins are extracted from the immune cells.