The role of the Themis gene in thymic function and the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis

Study code

Lead researcher
Professor Alasdair Coles

Study type
Participant re-contact

Institution or company
University of Cambridge

Researcher type

Speciality area
Neurological Disorders


The purpose of this study is to try and understand how a person's "genetic make-up" influences how their immune system works, and how they respond to drug treatments. The specific context is the treatment of multiple sclerosis with a drug called alemtuzumab. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the patients' own immune system attacks their brain and spinal cord causing damage. It is the most common cause of disability in young adults in the western world. Clinical trials have shown alemtuzumab to be very effective in treating multiple sclerosis, now we are trying to work out why. We also know that alemtuzumab has side-effects; in particular 1 in 3 patients treated with alemtuzumab develop a new autoimmune disease - that is their immune system stops attacking their brain and spinal cord, but begins to attack another part of their body. In most cases this is the thyroid gland. Here we aim to try and understand why this happens. We believe that understanding this may, one day, enable us to prevent this side effect from occurring.


Participation: For this study we recruited 73 volunteers from the Cambridge BioResource to give a 50ml blood sample on up to two occasions.

Organisation: The research is being conducted by Professor Alasdair Coles from the University of Cambridge.