Researchers target lymph nodes for possible MS treatment

April 04, 2017
In a new study, researchers have developed an experimental treatment that tames the wayward immune system in rodents, returning movement to paralyzed mice. The approach may someday combat multiple sclerosis.
Researchers at the University of Maryland set their sights on the lymph nodes as a possible target for creating a specific immune response. In autoimmune disease, a body-roaming immune cell recognizes an antigen – a molecule that the cell in this case falsely identifies as a piece of a foreign invader – and brings it to the lymph nodes, where another type of immune cell, the T cell, is then programmed to attack the antigen. For example, in multiple sclerosis, T cells are taught to recognize and attack the myelin sheath. The study’s authors thought it might be possible to prevent the T cells from learning bad habits by delivering an immune-system modifying agent directly to the lymph nodes.
To build the immunotherapeutic agent, the researchers first constructed a particle to serve as a carrier. They infused it with an immune-suppressing agent and the myelin antigen, to teach the T cells that myelin is no enemy. The researchers injected these particles into the lymph nodes of paralyzed mice exhibiting a mouse model of MS. The particles slowly reprogrammed the environment of the lymph node tissues to generate immune cells that migrated to the brain to stop the attack against myelin. These mice regained the ability to walk, and the effects lasted for the duration of the study. The mice were also able to readily respond when foreign molecules were introduced, suggesting that the treatment didn't compromise normal immune function.
Results of mouse model studies sometimes do not translate to humans and may be years away from being a marketable treatment. However, later this year, the group will team up with clinicians at the University of Maryland Medical School to begin tests in non-human primates, another step closer to investigating this idea as a future human therapy.
The researchers will present their work at the 253rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

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