Scientists proclaim MS treatment breakthrough after dramatic test results - but with small group so far
Therapy involves extracting patient's white blood cells that are mixed with proteins and re-infused
Jeremy Laurance is a writer on health issues. He is former health editor of The Independent and the i and has covered the specialism for more than 20 years. He thinks the harm medicine does is under-appreciated, the harm it prevents over-rated, and that cycling works better than most drugs. He was named Specialist Journalist of the Year in the 2011 British Press Awards.
Wednesday 05 June 2013
Scientists are claiming a breakthrough in the treatment of multiple sclerosis after an experimental therapy given to a small group of patients had dramatic results.
The therapy involved extracting white blood cells from the patients which were mixed with proteins and re-infused producing a 50-75 per cent reduction in the body's immune response.
In multiple sclerosis the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve fibres causing symptoms ranging from numbness to paralysis.
The new therapy halted the destruction of myelin without affecting the rest of the immune system.
The patients were treated in Hamburg, Germany, using the therapy which is the outcome of 30 years laboratory research. It was tested for safety on nine patients by a joint team from North Western University in Chicago, the University Hospital, Zurich and the University Medical Centre, Hamburg.
With such a small number of patients testing the therapy for safety only, it is impossible to draw conclusions about its effects. But the researchers found the response improved the greater the dose of white blood cells.
Stephen Miller, professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University, said: "The therapy stops autoimmune responses that are already activated and prevents the activation of new autoimmune cells. Our approach leaves the function of the normal immune system intact. That is the Holy Grail."
The researchers need to raise $1.5 million to launch a larger trial of the treatment which has been approved in Switzerland . Earlier studies showed the treatment halted multiple sclerosis in mice.
The researchers say the therapy could be effective in other diseases including diabetes, asthma and peanut allergy.
Commenting on the findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, Professor Paul Matthews, Head of Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London, said "much more work" was needed to demonstrate the therapy was effective in multiple sclerosis.
"Nonetheless, it is important to pursue this approach as it still promises a way of harnessing the body's own controls to selectively and more safely stop the disease than is possible now."
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Head of Biomedical Research, MS Society, said: "Treatments to stop the progression of MS are urgently needed. We eagerly await the results of any future larger clinical trials of this therapy."
Life & Style blogs
Melanoma rates in the UK are up five times on the 1970s
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
How dementia is changing me: My battle with an ever-shifting identity
The 10 Best kitchen knives
It’s a pizza! And a cake!! What’s not to like? (The calories)
- 1 Disabled people are trapped in assessment 'nightmare' by PIP benefits regime, says Dr Stephen Duckworth
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 David Bailey captures another side of the Queen in birthday portrait
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers
£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...
£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...