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  (Source: scientificamerican.com)
This could one day halt other immune-related diseases like Type 1 diabetes

A new method in the realm of nanotechnology has reset the immune system response in mice with multiple sclerosis (MS), which could one day halt other immune-related diseases like Type 1 diabetes. 

A team of researchers from Northwestern University, which was led by Stephen Miller and Lonnie Shea, were able to use nanoparticles to trick the immune system into not attacking myelin, which is a membrane that the immune system destroys to cause MS in patients. 

MS is diagnosed when myelin, a membrane that insulates nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve, is destroyed by the immune system. When myelin is attacked and destroyed, electrical signals cannot travel correctly, and this can lead to limb numbness and paralysis. 

Current treatments for MS include suppressing the entire immune system so that it cannot attack myelin. However, shutting down immune response means that the patient's body is more susceptible to infections and even cancer. 

The new method employed by the Northwestern researchers doesn't suppress the immune response, but rather tricks it into thinking that myelin is a normal part of the immune system. Hence, it doesn't attack the camouflaged membrane. 

This is how it works: myelin antigens are attached to nanoparticles, where the nanoparticles are made up of a polymer called Poly(lactide-co-gycolide), or PLG. PLG is made up of glycolin acid and lactic acid, which are natural metabolites in the human body. Also, PLG is already FDA-approved. 

These nanoparticles with myelin antigens were injected into mice -- the spleen, to be exact. Here, blood is filtered and aging or dying blood cells are tossed out. The nanoparticles were absorbed by immune cells called macrophages, and the antigens were shown on the cell surface. The immune system saw them as regular blood cells, and halted any attack. 

According to results, the team was able to prevent future relapses for up to 100 days.

"This is a highly significant breakthrough in translational immunotherapy," said Miller. "The beauty of this new technology is it can be used in many immune-related diseases. We simply change the antigen that's delivered. The holy grail is to develop a therapy that is specific to the pathological immune response, in this case the body attacking myelin. Our approach resets the immune system so it no longer attacks myelin but leaves the function of the normal immune system intact."

Source: Science Daily





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