Cure for multiple sclerosis now possible

August 13th, 2009 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 13 (IANS) Canadian researchers have successfully reversed multiple sclerosis in rodents, spelling hope for humans.
Multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s own immune response attacks the central nervous system, leading to progressive physical and mental deterioration.

Led by Jacques Galipeau, researchers at the Jewish General Hospital Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and the McGill University in Montreal, in an experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis, managed to completely reverse the auto-immune disorder in mice.

Calling the new treatment GIFT15, the researchers said it might put multiple sclerosis in humans into remission by suppressing the immune response.

The new treatment might also be effective against other auto-immune disorders like Crohn’s disease, lupus and arthritis, and could also control immune responses in organ transplant patients, a university statement said Wednesday.

The researchers said unlike earlier immune-suppressing therapies that rely on chemical pharmaceuticals, this new approach is “a personalised form of cellular therapy which utilises the body’s own cells to suppress immunity in a much more targeted way”.

The new treatment, or GIFT15, involves two proteins, GSM-CSF and interleukin-15, fused together artificially in the lab.

Under normal circumstances, the individual proteins act to stimulate the immune system, but when they are fused, the equation reverses itself.

“You know those mythical animals that have the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. They are called chimeras. In a lyrical sense, that is what we have created,” said research leader Galipeau, who is a world-renowned expert on cell regeneration.

“GIFT15 is a new protein hormone composed of two distinct proteins, and when they’re stuck together they lead to a completely unexpected biological effect,” he said.

This effect converts B-cells - a common form of white blood cell normally involved in immune response - into powerful immune-suppressive cells, he added.

The Canadian said naturally-occurring immune-suppressing B-cells are almost unknown in nature and the notion of using them to control immunity is very new.

He said: “GIFT15 (the new treatment) can take your normal, run-of-the-mill B-cells and convert them into these super-powerful B-regulatory cells.

“We took normal B-cells from mice, and sprinkled GIFT15 on them, which led to this Jekyll and Hyde effect. And when we gave them back intravenously to mice ill with multiple sclerosis, the disease went away.”

He said there were no significant side-effects in the mice, and the treatment was fully effective with a single dose.

The research leader said multiple sclerosis must be caught in its earliest stages to be reversed by the new treatment, though clinical studies are needed to test its efficacy and safety in humans.

The research has been published this week in the journal Nature Medicine.

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