Researchers in U.S. find way to improve multiple sclerosis treatment

2020-10-13 22:00:25 GMT2020-10-14 06:00:25(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

CHICAGO, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Researchers at the University of Chicago (UChicago) have designed a new therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) by fusing a cytokine to a blood protein.

In mice, this combination prevented destructive immune cells from infiltrating the central nervous system and decreased the number of cells that play a role in MS development, leading to fewer symptoms and even disease prevention.

Interleukin-4 (IL-4), an anti-inflammatory cytokine, is known to suppress the genes that cause MS and has been found to suppress the reactivation of Th17 cells, immune cells that are activated in the body's secondary lymphoid organs and migrate to the brain and play a role in the severity of MS. To use it as a potential therapy, the researchers bound IL-4 to a blood protein and injected it into mice that had experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, the mouse model of MS.

They found that it caused the IL-4 to stay within the secondary lymphoid organs. The result was reduced infiltration of Th17 cells into the spinal cord. That suppressed the disease and resulted in fewer symptoms.

The researchers also found that the therapy even prevented MS from developing in the majority of mice they treated with it.

"This is the first time anyone has shown how the fusion of this protein to immunosuppressive cytokines can treat and prevent multiple sclerosis," said Jun Ishihara, a former postdoctoral researcher at UChicago.

Though the therapy showed few negative side effects, the researchers will next formally study the toxicity of the therapy in hopes of eventually moving it to human clinical trials.

"This treatment could potentially be self-administered by MS patients at home with an injector pen," said Jeffrey Hubbell, a professor in tissue engineering at UChicago. "We think this is imminently translatable and could lead to better quality of life, with fewer symptoms, for those with the disease."

MS is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects millions worldwide. It can cause debilitating symptoms for those who suffer from it.

The results were published Monday in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.