Researchers may be one step closer to developing new treatments for multiple sclerosis, after discovering a way to tame the erratic immune response that triggers the disease and reverse paralysis in mouse models of the disease.
In multiple sclerosis (MS), the immune system mistakingly attacks myelin – the protective coating of nerve fibers – in the central nervous system.
When myelin or the underlying nerve fibers are damaged, communication between the brain and spinal cord is disrupted. This triggers an array of symptoms, including walking difficulties, numbness or tingling in the face, body, or extremities, and muscle weakness.
In the new study, lead investigator Christopher Jewell, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, and colleagues found a way to reprogram immune cells to stop attacking myelin in mouse models of MS, which restored the rodents’ ability to walk.
The researchers recently presented their findings at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, held in San Francisco, CA.
For their study, Jewell and team set out to create a more precise type of immunotherapy to prevent myelin damage in MS.
“The problem with current immunotherapies is that they aren’t specific,” explains Jewell. “They act broadly, compromising the entire immune system and putting the patient’s health at risk, rather than focusing on only those immune system cells doing the damage.”