Salt and MS

Salt implicated in MS development in study

Salt disrupts the ability of certain cells whose job it is to control inflammation and combat autoimmunity, a new study has found.

Salt rendered regulatory T-cells (Tregs) less effective at controlling a mouse model disease of multiple sclerosis (MS). Tregs dampen parts of the immune system and help control activity that could damage the body’s tissue. Scientists think when Tregs are unable to suppress other immune activity this might contribute to autoimmune conditions such as MS.

A high-salt diet, which is common in the Western world, has been shown to make Tregs more pro-inflammatory. Tregs exposed to salt look similar to autoimmune Tregs found in conditions such as MS.

In cell cultures, the gene activity of cells exposed to salt was also changed. Similarly altered genes were observed in MS patients.

Researchers then injected Tregs from healthy mice, which were then cultured in salt, into a mouse model of MS. Normal Tregs could stop MS developing in the mice, but the ones exposed to salt could not.

Inhibiting a molecule called NCLX, which allowed the Tregs’ mitochondria to take up salt, restored the ability of the Tregs to control disease again. Researchers said this could show promise for the treatment of salt-sensitive diseases, more work is required to properly understand the molecular mechanisms.