A team of researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have made a potentially amazing discovery, one that will aid in the suppression of MS without total immune system suppression.
The study, as published in the November 18th edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology, indicates that Scientists were able trick the immune system into tolerance of the myelin sheaths, thereby calming the auto-immune response that would normally damage the myelin sheath.
The Northwestern nanotechnology does not suppress the entire immune system as do current therapies for MS, which make patients more susceptible to everyday infections and higher rates of cancer.
Rather, when the nanoparticles are attached to myelin antigens and injected into the mice, the immune system is reset to normal. The immune system stops recognizing myelin as an alien invader and halts its attack on it.
“This is a highly significant breakthrough in translational immunotherapy,” said Stephen Miller, a corresponding author of the study and the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The beauty of this new technology is it can be used in many immune-related diseases. We simply change the antigen that’s delivered.”
“The holy grail is to develop a therapy that is specific to the pathological immune response, in this case the body attacking myelin,” Miller was quoted as saying “Our approach resets the immune system so it no longer attacks myelin but leaves the function of the normal immune system intact.”
The effective advantage of using nanoparticles comes from their easy production in standardized manufacturing. This fact makes the process accessible and more cost effective to the general population at large. Additionally, these nanoparticles are made of a polymer called Poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG), which consists of lactic acid and glycolic acid, both natural metabolites in the human body.
PLG has already been approved for other applications by the FDA, which will allow for patient treatment, whereas this discovery was made in mice.
“We administered these particles to animals who have a disease very similar to relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and stopped it in its tracks,” Miller said. “We prevented any future relapses for up to 100 days, which is the equivalent of several years in the life of an MS patient.”
“The key here is that this antigen/particle-based approach to induction of tolerance is selective and targeted. Unlike generalized immunosuppression, which is the current therapy used for autoimmune diseases, this new process does not shut down the whole immune system,” said Christine Kelley, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering director of the division of Discovery Science and Technology at the National Institutes of Health, which supported the research. “This collaborative effort between expertise in immunology and bioengineering is a terrific example of the tremendous advances that can be made with scientifically convergent approaches to biomedical problems.”
“We are proud to share our expertise in therapeutics development with Dr. Stephen Miller’s stellar team of academic scientists,” said Scott Johnson, CEO, president and founder of the Myelin Repair Foundation. “The idea to couple antigens to nanoparticles was conceived in discussions between Dr. Miller’s laboratory, the Myelin Repair Foundation’s drug discovery advisory board and Dr. Michael Pleiss, a member of the Myelin Repair Foundation’s internal research team, and we combined our efforts to focus on patient-oriented, clinically relevant research with broad implications for all autoimmune diseases. Our unique research model is designed to foster and extract the innovation from the academic science that we fund and transition these technologies to commercialization. The overarching goal is to ensure this important therapeutic pathway has its best chance to reach patients, with MS and all autoimmune diseases.”
This revolutionary research was made possible by grants from the Myelin Repair Foundation, an innovative research foundation focusing on developing drug therapies for multiple sclerosis patients, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Division of the National Institutes of Health, one of the world’s foremost medical research centers, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, whose mission is to search for ways to prevent, better treat, and ultimately cure type 1 diabetes.
Article by Jim Donahue