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Genetics, gender key to salt, MS link

8/11/2015

A new study suggests that the effects of dietary sodium on autoimmune neuroinflammation are sex specific, genetically controlled, and mediated by the central nervous system.

Researchers, led by Dimitry N. Krementsov, of the Department of Medicine, Immunobiology Program at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont, fed a high salt diet or a control diet to three genetically different groups of mice. Researchers then induced a disease in these mice that mimics human MS. In one genetic group, both males and females fed a high salt diet showed worse clinical signs of the disease. In the other genetic group, only females showed a negative response to salt. In the third genetic group, there was no response to salt. Genetics were the critical factor. In the mice that did respond to salt, there were no direct changes in the function of their immune cells, but they showed signs of a weakened blood-brain barrier.

"As is the case with other things, you need to get enough salt so your body functions properly, but not too much or things start to go haywire," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This report helps shed light on what can go wrong in individuals with genes that make one susceptible to autoimmune disease. It also helps us understand how much salt is just right for any given individual."

The findings were published in the FASEB Journal.



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