Researchers at the Microbiology-Immunology department at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Myelin Repair Foundation combined efforts and recently discovered a means of halting the effects of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis using microscopic particles carrying antigens. Scientists believe the nanotechnology also shows promise for treating a number of other immune system disorders ranging from allergies to diabetes.
Conventional methods of treating multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, involve medications that inhibit the entire immune system. Turning off immunity leaves patients prone to infections and cancer. The innovative nanotechnology developed by researchers does not interfere with normal immune system function. The particle containing antigens appear to reprogram the immune system, returning the body to normal function. After treatment, the inflammatory process no longer occurs.
Multiple sclerosis causes a malfunction in the immune system designed to protect the body from disease and infection. For reasons unknown, the immune system causes inflammation around the insulating myelin membrane that protects nerve cells found in the brain, spinal column and optic nerve. The inflammation weakens and destroys the fat and protein containing tissue, which prevents proper nerve transmission similar to frayed electrical wires. Approximately 80 percent of the patients living with MS experience a series of relapses and remissions. Relapses cause inflammation and destruction while remissions provide time for the body to regenerate myelin tissue.
Chemical and biological engineering professor Lonnie Shea created the technology using FDA approved constituents. The microscopic or nanoparticles consist of a polymer scientists call poly-lactide-co-glycolide or PLG. PLG consists of a substance containing a combination of lactic and glycolic acids. Both compounds naturally occur in the body. Current medical uses for PLG include sutures that automatically dissolve.
Easily and inexpensively reproduced in a laboratory setting, using PLG also equates to a cost effective treatment for patients. As the FDA already approves of PLG, gaining acceptance for MS protocol merely means proving that the substance demonstrates alternative application options.
How Nanoparticle Treatment Works
Scientists attached myelin proteins to the PLG nanoparticles and injected the mice with the substance intravenously. The particles traveled to the spleen, which cleans the blood and removes dying blood cells from the body. White blood cells called macrophages absorbed the nanoparticle compounds, transferring the myelin proteins to the blood cell’s surface. This action alerted immune system T-cells that the protein was not part of a harmful invasive process. Desensitized to myelin, the T-cells do not create the inflammatory process associated with MS.
Northwestern bioengineers originally tested the treatment method on mice having a disease process similar to MS. The physicians discovered that the nanoparticle technology prevented an immune system relapse for up to 100 days. This time frame equates to three or more years in a human patient.
When performing trials on human MS patients, researchers compared the effectiveness nanotechnology with the test subject’s own white blood cells for carrying antigens throughout the body. The less costly nanotechnology proved as effective. Dr. Shea and associates are also currently testing the nanotechnology as a possible treatment for allergy induced asthma and diabetes.
Guest Author : Derek is an active medical blogger. When he’s not blogging, he enjoys doing research on new cures for multiple sclerosis. The article above is for living with ms.