Progress in multiple sclerosis research
New advances have been made in multiple sclerosis research by scientists at Northwestern University. A study, which was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, shows that autoimmune attack on myelin in multiple sclerosis can now be kept under control with a new therapy.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease characterized by destruction of myelin, an important component of neurons that plays a role in nerve transmission. This demyelination that occurs can lead to a number of signs and symptoms: numbness in hands or feet, impaired vision, dizziness, paralysis etc. Stephen Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said the new therapy blocks the autoimmune response which is already activated and prevents further activation of autoimmune cells. He added that what is really exciting is that this treatment does not affect the normal immune system function. Current therapies for multiple sclerosis involve drugs that suppress the entire immune system which increases the risk of infection and cancer.
The study led by Dr. Miller implied processing white blood cells of patients with multiple sclerosis to obtain myelin antigens. These white blood cells were then introduced into the body so that the immune system to recognize and develop tolerance to them. Although the study was conducted only on nine patients, it was showed that those who received the highest dose of the white cells had the highest rate of decrease in the reactivity of myelin.
Being a phase 1 clinical trial, the main aim of the research was to demonstrate the safety and tolerance of the treatment. It was found that intravenous injection of up to 3 billion white blood cells did not result in any adverse effect in patients with multiple sclerosis. In addition, what is of note is that the treatment did not reactivated the disease and did not interfere with the body’s immune function. In addition, the researchers wanted to see whether the effect of this immune therapy was specific for myelin. They therefore also tested the immunity of patients with multiple sclerosis to tetanus. The result was that patients’ response to tetanus remained strong, which demonstrated that immune therapy effect was specific for myelin.
Researchers want now to conduct the phase 2 clinical trial to test whether the new treatment may prevent the progression of multiple sclerosis in humans. “In the phase 2 trial we want to treat patients as early as possible in the disease before they have paralysis due to myelin damage.” Miller noted.