Treatment options for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) are complicated, because inhibiting the immune system to prevent neural damage simultaneously makes the patient extremely vulnerable to dangerous infections. New research from the University of Maryland aims to bypass the negative side effects while still inhibiting the autoimmune response that leads to the debilitating fatigue, disturbed sensation, and mobility problems associated with MS.
In the words of corresponding author and assistant professor Christopher Jewell, their aim is to “reprogram how the immune system responds to self-cells in the brain that are mistakenly attacked during MS.”
For MS, type 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases with no existing cure, the Maryland scientists present a combination of immunology and nanotechnology that could inhibit the autoimmune responses that causes disease and leave the healthy function of the immune system up and running.
Together, the team of scientists created biodegradable polymers that deliver regulatory signals to the lymph nodes upon injection, prompting the immune organs to produce regulatory immune cells as opposed to autoimmune cells that attack myelin, the insulator and protector of neurons in the brain.
“The hope is that these cells can directly suppress inflammation without targeting healthy immune function,” said first author Lisa Tostanoski. The team saw initial success in polymer delivery in both cell models and pre-clinical animal models of MS: they demonstrated that a single treatment of biodegradable particles could completely and permanently reverse paralysis from MS.
"This innovative research has the potential to open up a new, highly selective approach to treating multiple sclerosis," said Bruce F. Bebo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which funded the Maryland study.
MS affects more than two million people across the globe, with symptoms ranging from mild to complete paralysis.
The study was recently published in the journal Cell Reports
Sources: National Multiple Sclerosis Society
, University of Maryland
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