Our incomplete understanding of the causes and pathways involved in the onset and progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) limits our ability to effectively treat this complex neurological disease. Recent studies explore the role of immune cells at different stages of MS and how they interact with cells of the central nervous system (CNS). The findings presented here begin to question the exclusivity of an antigen-specific cause and highlight how seemingly distinct immune cell types can share common functions that drive disease. Innovative techniques further expose new disease-associated immune cell populations and reinforce how environmental context is critical to their phenotype and subsequent role in disease. Importantly, the differentiation of immune cells into a pathogenic state is potentially reversible through therapeutic manipulation. As such, understanding the mechanisms that provide plasticity to causal cell types is likely key to uncoupling these disease processes and may identify novel therapeutic targets that replace the need for cell ablation.
Nat Rev Immunol