Presents

DAILY DIGEST

REPORTING FROM ACTRIMS

Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis
West Palm Beach, Florida

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29

Advances in Epigenetics May Provide Unique Targets for Treatment in MS

Research by Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, Chief of the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair at the Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, focuses on epigenetics, or change in genes that do not affect DNA sequencing.WEST PALM BEACH, FL — What can we learn about multiple sclerosis (MS) by looking at epigenetic changes in brain and immune cells? Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, addressed this issue in her talk on Friday, February 28, at the 2020 ACTRIMS Forum. "A growing body of evidence suggests that epigenetic changes play an important role in MS pathology and could be potential therapeutic targets," she suggested.

The term "epigenetic" means non-genetic, reversible influences on gene expression that do not alter the DNA sequence, Dr. Casaccia said. Rather than changing the DNA sequence, these modifications affect how cells "read" the genes. Some examples include DNA methylation—the addition of a methyl group or "chemical cap" to a part of the DNA molecule which prevents certain genes from being expressed. Another example is modification of histones—proteins around which the DNA encircles in order to fit into the cell. "While genetic mutations—such as altered DNA sequences—will be the same in all cells, epigenetic modifications like DNA methylation are cell-specific," she explained.

Dr. Casaccia is Professor of Neuroscience, Genetics and Genomics at the City University of New York, and Chief of the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair at the Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City. At the ACTRIMS meeting, she discussed two current research projects looking at epigenetic changes in MS. One compared post-mortem normal-appearing white matter tissue from people with MS and healthy controls. In the brain tissues from people with MS, epigenetic change were found to be consistent with altered expression of genes known to be involved in immune function and remyelination.

Dr. Casaccia also presented data comparing people with MS who had high body mass index (BMI; 30.2.±5.0), MS patients with normal BMI, and healthy controls. In the group with high BMI, oligodendrocytes in non-lesioned areas of the brain showed epigenetic changes that may render these areas prone to pathogenic processes, her research findings predicted. Among these changes were hypermethylation. This process has been implicated in many disease states, including human tumorigenesis that leads to development of breast and other types of cancers.

"Novel therapeutic strategies for MS that target epigenetic modifications may be highly attractive, but cellular specificity must be addressed," she concluded.

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By Katherine Wandersee, for the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC)

 

© 2020, Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. Published by Delaware Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of their affiliated institutions, the publisher, or Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Research by Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, Chief of the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair at the Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, focuses on epigenetics, or change in genes that do not affect DNA sequencing.WEST PALM BEACH, FL — What can we learn about multiple sclerosis (MS) by looking at epigenetic changes in brain and immune cells? Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, addressed this issue in her talk on Friday, February 28, at the 2020 ACTRIMS Forum. "A growing body of evidence suggests that epigenetic changes play an important role in MS pathology and could be potential therapeutic targets," she suggested.