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

Research Breakthrough Selectively Represses the Immune System

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Bookmark and Share
NIH-funded scientists develop new treatment to combat autoimmune disease in mouse model.

In a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed innovative technology to selectively inhibit the part of the immune system responsible for attacking myelin-the insulating material that encases nerve fibers and facilitates electrical communication between brain cells.

Autoimmune disorders occur when T-cells-a type of white blood cell within the immune system-mistake the body’s own tissues for a foreign substance and attack them.

Current treatment for autoimmune disorders involves the use of immunosuppressant drugs which tamp down the overall activity of the immune system.

However, these medications leave patients susceptible to infections and increase their risk of cancer as the immune system’s normal ability to identify and destroy aberrant cells within the body is compromised.

Supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at NIH, Drs. Stephen Miller and Lonnie Shea at Northwestern University, Evanston, teamed up with researchers at the University of Sydney, and the Myelin Repair Foundation in Saratoga, Calif. to come up with a novel way of repressing only the part of the immune system that causes autoimmune disorders while leaving the rest of the system intact.

The new research takes advantage of a natural safeguard employed by the body to prevent autoreactive T-cells-which recognize and have the potential to attack the body’s healthy tissues-from becoming active. They report their results in the Nov. 18 online edition of Nature Biotechnology.

“We’re trying to do something that interfaces with the natural processes in the body,” said Shea. “The body has natural mechanisms for shutting down an immune response that is inappropriate, and we’re really just looking to tap into that.”

One of these natural mechanisms involves the ongoing clearance of apoptotic, or dying, cells from the body. When a cell dies, it releases chemicals that attract specific cells of the immune system called macrophages.

These macrophages gobble up the dying cell and deliver it to the spleen where it presents self-antigens-tiny portions of proteins from the dying cell-to a pool of T-cells.

In order to prevent autoreactive T-cells from being activated, macrophages initiate the repression of any T-cells capable of binding to the self-antigens.

Dr. Miller was the first to demonstrate that by coupling a specific self-antigen such as myelin to apoptotic cells, one could tap into this natural mechanism to suppress T-cells that would normally attack the myelin.

The lab spent decades demonstrating that they could generate antigen-specific immune suppression in various animal models of autoimmune diseases.

Recently, they initiated a preliminary clinical trial with collaborators in Germany to test the safety of injecting the antigen-bound apoptotic cells into patients with MS.

While the trial successfully demonstrated that the injections were safe, it also highlighted a key problem with using cells as a vehicle for antigen delivery:

"Cellular therapy is extremely expensive as it needs to be carried out in a large medical center that has the capability to isolate patient’s white blood cells under sterile conditions and to re-infuse those antigen-coupled cells back into the patients," said Miller. "It’s a costly, difficult, and time-consuming procedure."

Thus began a collaboration with Dr. Shea, a bioengineer at Northwestern University, to discuss the possibility of developing a surrogate for the apoptotic cells.

After trying out various formulations, his lab successfully linked the desired antigens to microscopic, biodegradable particles which they predicted would be taken up by circulating macrophages similar to apoptotic cells.

Much to their amazement, when tested by the Miller lab, the antigen-bound particles were just as good, if not better, at inducing T-cell tolerance in animal models of autoimmune disorders.

Using their myelin-bound particles, the researchers were able to both prevent the initiation of MS in their mouse model as well as inhibit its progression when injected immediately following the first sign of clinical symptoms.

The research team is now hoping to begin phase I clinical trials using this new technology.

The material that makes up the particles has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is currently used in resorbable sutures as well as in clinical trials to deliver anti-cancer agents.

Miller believes that the proven safety record of these particles along with their ability to be easily produced using good manufacturing practices will make it easier to translate their discovery into clinical use.

"I think we’ve come up with a very potent way to induce tolerance that can be easily translated into clinical practice. We’re doing everything we can now to take this forward," said Miller.

In addition to its potential use for the treatment of MS, the researchers have shown in the lab that their therapy can induce tolerance for other autoimmune diseases such as type I diabetes and specific food allergies.

They also speculate that transplant patients could benefit from the treatment which has the potential to retract the body’s natural immune response against a transplanted organ.

Dr. Christine Kelley, NIBIB director of the Division of Science and Technology, points to the unique collaboration between scientists and engineers that made this advance a reality.

"This discovery is testimony to the importance of multidisciplinary research efforts in healthcare," said Kelley. "The combined expertise of these immunology and bioengineering researchers has resulted in a valuable new perspective on treating autoimmune disorders."

In addition to a grant from NIBIB (R01-EB013198-02), the research was also supported by NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS026543), the Myelin Repair Foundation, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (17-2011-343).

NIBIB’s mission is to support multidisciplinary research and research training at the crossroads of engineering and the biological and physical sciences.

NIBIB supports emerging technology research and development within its internal laboratories and through grants, collaborations, and training.

Further Information
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 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ 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

Lucentis Effective for Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
NIH-funded clinical trial marks first major advance in therapy in 40 years.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Batten Disease may Benefit from Gene Therapy
NIH-funded animal study suggests one-shot approach to injecting genes.
Friday, November 13, 2015
Molecule Proves Key to Brain Repair After Stroke
Scientists found that a molecule known as growth and differentiation factor 10 (GDF10) plays a key role in repair mechanisms following stroke.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
NIH Researchers Link Single Gene Variation to Obesity
Variation in the BDNF gene may affect brain’s regulation of appetite, study suggests.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Researchers Identify Potential Alternative to CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing Tools
New Cas enzymes shed light on evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Potential Alternative to CRISPR-Cas Genome Editing Tools
New Cas enzymes shed light on evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Charting Genetic Variation Across the Globe
An international team of scientists has created the world’s largest catalog of human genetic differences in populations around the globe.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Gene Therapy Staves Off Blindness from Retinitis Pigmentosa in Canine Model
NIH-funded study suggests therapeutic window may extend to later-stage disease.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Nuclear Transport Problems Linked to ALS and FTD
NIH-supported studies point to potential new target for treating neurodegenerative diseases.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Scientists Develop Genetic Blueprint of Inner Ear Cell Development
Two studies in mice use new technique to provide insight into cell development critical for hearing, balance.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
$21M Invested in Research Hubs in Developing Countries
The National Institutes of Health and other U.S. and Canadian partners are investing $20.9 million dollars over five years to establish seven regional research and training centers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Friday, October 09, 2015
NIH Breast Cancer Research to Focus On Prevention
A new phase of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), focused on prevention, is being launched at the National Institutes of Health.
Friday, October 09, 2015
NIH Grantees Win 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to NIH grantees Paul Modrich, Ph.D., of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.; and Aziz Sancar, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.,.
Thursday, October 08, 2015
NIH Announces High-Risk, High-Reward Research Awardees
NIH to fund 78 awards to support highly innovative biomedical research.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos