By Lorna Hayden and Marieke Pingen in The Conversation.
Usually our immune system protects us from harmful microbes such as bacteria or viruses. It does this either by directly attacking a microbe, or producing an antibody which recognises and removes microbes from the body. But, in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), their immune response is overactive, resulting in the body attacking it’s own cells – namely those in the central nervous system (including the brain and spinal cord). This results in damage to the central nervous system, which leads to impaired sensory and motor function.
A lot of research has gone into determining why the immune cells of MS patients attack the brain. Researchers are especially interested in understanding why MS patients make so many antibodies, which are important for protecting the body from viral infections. Large quantities of antibodies are found in their cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid barrier that surrounds the brain).
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