A cytokine not kind to an injury of the spine

09/15/05

Transverse Myelitis (TM) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that is characterized by focal spinal cord demyelination and axonal injury. TM causes paralysis and other neurologic disabilities, but has limited treatment options due to a lack of understanding of its underlying mechanisms.

In a paper appearing online on September 22 in advance of print publication of the October 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Douglas Kerr and colleagues from Johns Hopkins find that levels of the cytokine IL-6 are selectively increased in cerebrospinal fluid from TM patients. The researchers show that elevated IL-6 levels alone are necessary and sufficient to mediate injury to both neuronal and glial cells, in a manner that is dependent on nitric oxide.

This is the first description of IL-6 as a mediator of neural injury. Further, high levels of IL-6 were directly correlated with tissue injury and clinical disability, suggesting that IL-6 may be an important biomarker of TM. This new data may aid in the development of effective therapies against TM and other inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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