New Drug Offers Hope Against MS

By Cara Murez
HealthDay reporter

WEDNESDAY, November 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A new immunotherapy that has been shown to be effective against multiple sclerosis in animals may hold promise for humans, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia are studying a drug that would block immune system cells from attacking the myelin sheath, a protective layer that surrounds nerve cells. With MS, the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system by attacking the myelin sheath.

Although this therapy would hamper the autoimmune response, it would leave the rest of the immune system fully functioning, according to the study.

“This is a huge advantage of our antigen-specific method over current therapies, which are like a hammer on the immune system,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Abdolmohamad Rostami, chair of the study. Department of Neurology, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University.

“There are many possible immune activator antigens in the myelin sheath, but the biggest obstacle is that we don’t know which component of myelin triggers the immune response in patients with MS,” Rostami explained. “Previous studies have used single myelin antigens or combinations of antigens to prevent autoimmunity in animal models, but in humans they have had limited success.

For this study, the researchers looked at cells called oligodendrocytes, which wrap their cell membranes around nerve cells to produce the myelin sheath. Scientists can harvest tiny sacs called extracellular vesicles (EVs) from these cultured cells. Researchers believe that these EVs contain all of the relevant myelin antigens, which means there is a greater chance that they can stop the autoimmune attack on the myelin.

“What’s interesting about these EVs is that they give us the opportunity to treat disease in an antigen-specific way, without having to know the exact identity of the target antigen.” Rostami said in an academic press release. “It covers all the bases.”

The researchers injected these EVs into three different mouse models intended to show their impact on early and late stage MS. They reported that it prevented the onset of symptoms like decreased mobility and paralysis when given before disease development, as well as reduced disease severity when given later. .


The fact that this approach is effective in different models suggests that it could act as a universal therapy, Rostami noted. However, the results of animal studies do not always materialize in humans.

The researchers said they were also able to isolate EVs from human cells, finding that they also contained multiple myelin antigens. It is possible that they could have the same therapeutic effect in patients, according to the study.

Rostami and his team are working on patenting the intravenous EV approach.

The study was published on November 4 in Scientific translational medicine.

More information

Visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to learn more about treatments for MS.

SOURCE: Thomas Jefferson University, press release, November 3, 2020

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