New kind of therapy shows early promise in MS patients - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

New kind of therapy shows early promise in MS patients

Updated: June 5, 2013 03:02 PM EDT
© Comstock / Thinkstock © Comstock / Thinkstock

By Brenda Goodman
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- A new therapy for multiple sclerosis that teaches the body to recognize and then ignore its own nerve tissue appears to be safe and well-tolerated in humans, a small new study shows.

If larger studies prove the technique can slow or stop the disease, the therapy would be a completely new way to treat autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and type 1 diabetes.

Most treatments for MS and other autoimmune diseases work by broadly suppressing immune function, leaving patients vulnerable to infections and cancers.

The new treatment targets only the proteins that come under attack when the immune system fails to recognize them as a normal part of the body. By creating tolerance to only a select few proteins, researchers hope they will be able to cure the disease but leave the rest of the body's defenses on guard.

"This is important work," said Dr. Lawrence Steinman, a professor of neurology at Stanford University who was not involved with the study.

"Very few investigators are trying therapies in humans aimed at simply turning off unwanted immune responses and leaving the rest of the immune system intact to fight infections -- to do surveillance against cancer," Steinman said. "The early results show encouragement."

For the study, published in the June 5 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers in the United States and Germany recruited nine patients with MS. Seven had the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, while two others had secondary progressive MS (a more advanced phase). All were between the ages of 18 and 55, and were in good health except for their MS.

Blood tests conducted before the treatments showed that each patient had an immune reaction against at least one of seven myelin proteins.

Myelin is a white tissue made of fats and proteins that wraps nerve fibers, allowing them to conduct electrical signals through the body. In MS, the body attacks and gradually destroys these myelin sheaths. The damage disrupts nerve signals and leads to myriad symptoms, including numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of balance and disrupted muscle coordination.

Six patients in the study had low disease activity, while three others had a history of more active disease. Most were not experiencing symptoms at the time of their treatment.

On the day of the treatments, patients spent about two hours hooked up to a machine that filtered their blood, harvesting white cells while returning red cells and plasma to the body.

After the white cells were collected, they were washed and then combined with seven proteins that make up myelin tissue. A chemical was used to link the proteins to the white blood cells, which were dying.

In addition to fighting germs, another important role of the immune system is to get rid of dead and dying tissues. When these tissues are collected by the spleen, it sends out a signal to the rest of the immune system that the dying tissues are just harmless waste.

The new treatment aims to take advantage of the body's waste disposal system. In attaching the myelin proteins to dying white blood cells, the idea is to get the body to also recognize those proteins as harmless and hopefully leave them alone.

In animal models of MS, the same group of researchers has shown that using this system to induce immune tolerance can stop the progression of disease.

This was the first test of this kind of therapy in humans, and although the study was too small to show whether the treatment changed the course of the disease, researchers did see some promising signs.

Blood tests taken before and after the treatment showed that the infusions turned down immune reactivity to myelin proteins, but didn't affect the immune response to potential infections, like tetanus.

"We were only trying to turn down the myelin responses, which we did," said study researcher Stephen Miller, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago. "And we didn't turn down the response to tetanus. That suggests ... that this therapy, just like in mice, can induce tolerance in humans."

Patients reported mild and moderate side effects during their treatments. Nearly all these problems, except for a metallic taste in the mouth, were judged to be unrelated to the study treatment.

The six patients with mild disease activity showed no new symptoms or worsening in their conditions three months after the infusions. What's more, MRI scans showed no new areas of inflammation after their treatments.

Two of the three patients with more active disease had worsening symptoms within two weeks of treatment. Those symptoms cleared up with steroid treatments. MRI scans showed all three patients developed new lesions that indicated a worsening of inflammation.

None of the patients lost neurologic function during the six months they were followed after their treatments.

"Whether it's going to have a longstanding effect, or an effect in locking down the disease symptoms in MS patients, is going to take a phase 2 or phase 3 trial," said Miller, who disclosed that he shares rights to a patent on the technique.

The study was supported by private grants from foundations in Germany and the United States, and by funding from the German government.

More information

For more information on immune tolerance therapies, head to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Health News Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Migraine Relief: Stopping Pain & Relieving Pressure

    Migraine Relief: Stopping Pain & Relieving Pressure

    Friday, April 18 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-18 21:15:06 GMT
    Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.more>>
    Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.more>>
  • Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Thursday, April 17 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-17 21:15:09 GMT
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure, but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms.more>>
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure for SMA but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms, it targets mutated SMN genes, which are responsible for SMA.more>>
  • Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-16 21:15:09 GMT
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.