JUN 15, 2020 3:18 PM PDT

Experimental MS Treatment Relies on "Retraining" the Immune System

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

When the immune system goes awry and fails to regulate itself, immune cells may attack the body’s own tissues. Scientists want to prevent immune cells from going rogue by teaching them the “proper” way to behave.

A normal immune response has a regulatory component that keeps the immune system focused on an outside invader and away from targeting its own cells (“self” cells). However, that regulatory system can be compromised, leading to autoimmune disease.

In the case of multiple sclerosis (MS), the self cells under attack are those that make up myelin proteins, a fatty sheath of tissue that covers and protect nerves. With the myelin sheath under attack, the body has less control over muscles and subsequently, movement. Scientists leading the new study aimed to correct cells’ self-destructive behavior to prevent damaging tissues like the myelin sheath.

In a two-part study, researchers looked at the T cell mechanisms that control the immune system and how their behavior can be manipulated with longevity in mind. The goal was to help T cells recognize Myelin Basic Protein (MBP) properly, as belonging to the body, thus avoiding the “friendly fire” that characterizes autoimmune diseases like MS.

In part one, researchers treated the immune system with repeated doses of the same “highly soluble fragment” of MBP. The process is similar to immunotherapy used to desensitize the immune system to reduce allergic responses. Researchers found success in part one; results showed that T cells successfully learned to recognize MBP and cease attacking it.

In part two, researchers observed how genes in T cells can be altered as a result of the therapeutic process in part one. The treatment effectively activated genes that reduce immune activity as opposed to increasing it, enhancing appropriate “tolerance” of self cells. Researchers also found that cells could “remember” the behavior change, and the gene activity reflected that memory.

Future clinical trials are needed to indicate long-lasting effects for people with MS. What causes MS is still unknown. Individuals diagnosed with MS tend to follow one of four disease courses:

  1. Clinically isolated syndrome
  2. Relapsing remitting
  3. Secondary progressive
  4. Primary progressive

Sources: University of Birmingham, Cell Reports, National Multiple Sclerosis Society

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
New Drug Combo Prolongs Survival with Advanced Kidney Cancer
SEP 20, 2020
New Drug Combo Prolongs Survival with Advanced Kidney Cancer
Biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb has found that a new drug combination can reduce death rates among those ...
OCT 12, 2020
Microbiology
Researchers May Have Found a Way to Cure Rotavirus Infections
OCT 12, 2020
Researchers May Have Found a Way to Cure Rotavirus Infections
Rotaviruses are very contagious. They are the most common cause of diarrhea in children and are estimated to cause about ...
NOV 24, 2020
Immunology
Dirty Sheets Make Babies Healthier
NOV 24, 2020
Dirty Sheets Make Babies Healthier
Microbiologists have established that the development of infants’ immune systems is intricately linked to the dive ...
DEC 15, 2020
Immunology
Immunity-Boosting: Is It Real?
DEC 15, 2020
Immunity-Boosting: Is It Real?
The question everyone tries to find an answer to in the winter season is how can we improve our immunity to fight any in ...
DEC 28, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Mapping Networks of Gene Expression in Cells
DEC 28, 2020
Mapping Networks of Gene Expression in Cells
Every cell contains our whole genome, but not all genes are turned on all the time; gene expression has to be very caref ...
JAN 14, 2021
Immunology
Sunshine Vitamin Lowers COVID Mortality
JAN 14, 2021
Sunshine Vitamin Lowers COVID Mortality
Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s synthesized in the skin afte ...
Loading Comments...