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Researchers develop novel approach to stopping immune attacks in mice with MS-like disease

November 11, 2020

Multiple sclerosis involves misguided attacks by the immune system on the body’s own nerve fiber-insulating myelin. The ability to turn off the specific immune cells attacking in MS could be an effective way to stop MS in its tracks, but this approach is hindered by not knowing the specific myelin “antigens,” or targets of this misguided immune attack.

Taking a novel approach, a team at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia took microsopic particles, called extracellular vesicles, from myelin-making cells and injected them into mice with MS-like disease. Because the vesicles contained multiple myelin antigens, the team hoped that this might in a sense inoculate the mice to induce immune tolerance to myelin, and reduce disease activity, overcoming the need for identifying the precise antigen or target.

They found that when the vesicles were injected before disease onset, symptoms were prevented. When injected afterward, symptoms were reduced. The approach affected the attacking immune cells but did not dampen protective aspects of the immune system. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The team is seeking to develop this approach with further research, to determine whether it would be safe and effective for treating people with MS.

Read more from Thomas Jefferson University

Read a scientific summary of the paper in Science Translational Medicine

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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