Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Big Multiple Sclerosis Breakthrough

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, June 10, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Phase 1 trial safely resets patients’ immune systems, reduces attack on myelin protein.

A phase 1 clinical trial for the first treatment to reset the immune system of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients showed the therapy was safe and dramatically reduced patients’ immune systems’ reactivity to myelin by 50 to 75 percent, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

In MS, the immune system attacks and destroys myelin, the insulating layer that forms around nerves in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve.

When the insulation is destroyed, electrical signals can’t be effectively conducted, resulting in symptoms that range from mild limb numbness to paralysis or blindness.

“The therapy stops autoimmune responses that are already activated and prevents the activation of new autoimmune cells,” said Stephen Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Miller continued, “Our approach leaves the function of the normal immune system intact. That’s the holy grail.”

Miller is the co-senior author of a paper on the study, which was published June 5 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The study is a collaboration between Northwestern’s Feinberg School, University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland and University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.

The human trial is the translation of more than 30 years of preclinical research in Miller's lab.

In the trial, the MS patients’ own specially processed white blood cells were used to stealthily deliver billions of myelin antigens into their bodies so their immune systems would recognize them as harmless and develop tolerance to them.

Current therapies for MS suppress the entire immune system, making patients more susceptible to everyday infections and higher rates of cancer.

While the trial’s nine patients - who were treated in Hamburg, Germany - were too few to statistically determine the treatment’s ability to prevent the progression of MS, the study did show patients who received the highest dose of white blood cells had the greatest reduction in myelin reactivity.

The primary aim of the study was to demonstrate the treatment’s safety and tolerability. It showed the intravenous injection of up to 3 billion white blood cells with myelin antigens caused no adverse affects in MS patients.

Most importantly, it did not reactivate the patients’ disease and did not affect their healthy immunity to real pathogens.

As part of the study, researchers tested patients’ immunity to tetanus because all had received tetanus shots in their lifetime.

One month after the treatment, their immune responses to tetanus remained strong, showing the treatment’s immune effect was specific only to myelin.

The human safety study sets the stage for a phase 2 trial to see if the new treatment can prevent the progression of MS in humans.

Scientists are currently trying to raise $1.5 million to launch the trial, which has already been approved in Switzerland. Miller’s preclinical research demonstrated the treatment stopped the progression of relapsing-remitting MS in mice.

“In the phase 2 trial we want to treat patients as early as possible in the disease before they have paralysis due to myelin damage.” Miller said. “Once the myelin is destroyed, it’s hard to repair that.”

In the trial, patients’ white blood cells were filtered out, specially processed and coupled with myelin antigens by a complex GMP manufacturing process developed by the study co-senior authors, Roland Martin, Mireia Sospedra, and Andreas Lutterotti and their team at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

Then billions of these dead cells secretly carrying the myelin antigens were injected intravenously into the patients. The cells entered the spleen, which filters the blood and helps the body dispose of aging and dying blood cells.

During this process, the immune cells start to recognize myelin as a harmless and immune tolerance quickly develops. This was confirmed in the patients by immune assays developed and carried out by the research team in Hamburg.

This therapy, with further testing, may be useful for treating not only MS but also a host of other autoimmune and allergic diseases simply by switching the antigens attached to the cells.

Previously published preclinical research by Miller showed the therapy’s effectiveness for type 1 diabetes and airway allergy (asthma) and peanut allergy.

The MS human trial relates directly to Miller’s recently published research in mice in which he used nanoparticles - rather than a patient’s white blood cells - to deliver the myelin antigen.

Using a patient’s white blood cells is a costly and labor-intensive procedure. Miller’s study showed the nanoparticles, which are potentially cheaper and more accessible to a general population, could be as effective as the white blood cells as delivery vehicles.

This nanoparticle technology has been licensed to Cour Pharmaceutical Development Company and is in preclinical development.

Miller’s research represents several pillars of Northwestern’s Strategic Plan by discovering new ways to treat disease in the biomedical sciences and translating those discoveries into ideas and products that make the world a better place for everyone.

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,100+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Understanding Female HIV Transmission
Glowing virus maps points of entry through entire female reproductive tract for first time.
Friday, April 29, 2016
Nanoparticle Acts Like Trojan Horse To Halt Asthma
New technology also can be used to turn off peanut and other food allergies
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Investigating Kidney Cancer Therapies
Two drugs known to improve survival for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma do not reduce the risk of cancer recurrence when administered after surgery.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Protein Found to Control Inflammatory Response
A new Northwestern Medicine study shows that a protein called POP1 prevents severe inflammation and, potentially, diseases caused by excessive inflammatory responses.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Scientific News
Point of Care Diagnostics - A Cautious Revolution
Advances in molecular biology, coupled with the miniaturization and improved sensitivity of assays and devices in general, have enabled a new wave of point-of-care (POC) or “bedside” diagnostics.
Overlooked Molecules Could Revolutionise our Understanding of the Immune System
Researchers have discovered that around one third of all the epitopes displayed for scanning by the immune system are a type known as ‘spliced’ epitopes.
NIH Study Determines Key Differences between Allergic and Non-Allergic Dust Mite Proteins
Researchers at NIH have uncovered factors that lead to the development of dust mite allergy and assist in the design of better allergy therapies.
New Antibody Therapy Permanently Blocks SIV Infection
An international research team has developed an effective treatment strategy against the HIV-like Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in rhesus macaques.
Contribution Increases by Tenfold The Mouse Mutation Resources of One Type Available
The repository provides academic researchers with unique genetic models that are unavailable commercially.
3D-Printing in Science: Conference Co-Staged with LABVOLUTION
LABVOLUTION 2017 will have an added highlight of a simultaneous conference, "3D-Printing in Science".
DNA Vaccines Protect Monkeys Against Zika Virus
Two experimental Zika virus DNA vaccines developed by NIH scientists protected monkeys against Zika infection.
Rare Flu-Thwarting Mutation Discovered
Study finds protein mutation, that is encoded by influenza, causes the virus to lose any defence against the immune system.
Mapping the Human Immune System
Researchers try to harness supercomputers to create the first map of the human immune system.
Antibody Drug Conjugates May Help Personalize Radiotherapy
Biomarker-driven study shows promise in sensitizing HER2 positive tumors to radiation and chemotherapy.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,100+ scientific videos