Immunotherapeutic agent stopped myelin damage in mice
The researchers speculated that they could create a distinct immune response by targeting the lymph nodes. In autoimmune diseases, T cells – a type of immune cell – are programmed to attack healthy cells and tissues, and this programming occurs in the lymph nodes.
By targeting the lymph nodes with an immune-modifying compound, the team thought it might be possible to prevent T cells from attacking myelin.
To test their theory, Jewell and colleagues constructed an immunotherapeutic agent.
To do this, the team used a polymer called poly(lactide-co-glycolide) to build a particle that can carry other compounds. Next, the researchers infused poly(lactide-co-glycolide) with the myelin antigen and an immune-suppressing agent, with the aim of “teaching” T cells that myelin is not a threat.
The researchers then injected their immunotherapeutic agent directly into the lymph nodes of MS mouse models that had lost the ability to walk.
The researchers found that the agent gradually reprogrammed the environment of lymph node tissues in the rodents. This led to the development of immune cells that traveled to the brain and halted the attack against myelin.
As a result, the mice regained their walking ability, and the myelin-protecting effects of the agent lasted for around 80 days.
Furthermore, when foreign molecules were introduced to the mice, their immune systems were able to respond quickly. This indicates that the immunotherapeutic agent did not interfere with normal immune function.
All in all, the researchers believe that their findings may one day lead to the development of an immunotherapy that can prevent and treat MS and other autoimmune diseases.
The team is now testing whether their idea might help to combat type 1 diabetes, whereby the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.