New MS Research Nothing to Sneeze At

Histamine shown to play a critical role in preventing multiple sclerosis

Histamines are chemicals that are usually responsible for causing allergic reactions. However, research shows they may also help treat multiple sclerosis.

Researchers found histamine plays an important role in multiple sclerosis. In their study, the researchers saw that histamine prevents two crucial factors in the development of MS: brain inflammation and demyelination (damage to certain neurons).

"Histamines might give us a new treatment for MS."

John Wherry, Ph.D., deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, said the research is exciting as it points to an unexpected connection between autoimmunity pathways and allergies, suggesting previously unrecognized connections between these very different types of immune responses.

This discovery of the connection could yield new drug targets for MS and other autoimmune or central nervous system diseases, Wherry said.

In Depth

The scientists found histamine inhibits the proliferation of myelin-autoreactive T cells (a type of white blood cell) and the production of interferon-gamma, a cytokine (small cell-signaling protein molecule) involved in brain inflammation and demyelination.

Additionally, histamine reduced the ability of myelin autoreactive T cells to bind to inflamed brain vessels, a critical process in the development of MS.

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease in which the immune system attacks the coating surrounding nerve cells known as the myelin sheath. This process is called demyelination. Multiple sclerosis results in numerous neurological complications that can be minor, debilitating or somewhere in between.

Review Date: 
February 7, 2011