Researchers think they may have discovered an approach for treating patients with MS and autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and food allergies. It has already been proven to work in mice.

In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune cells mistakenly attack healthy tissues. The researchers report in the journalNature Biotechnologythat their newly discovered treatment re-educates the immune cells so that they stop mistakenly identifying threats.

How it Works

The approach uses tiny nanoparticles composed of the same material used to make dissolvable surgical sutures. They are attached to small portions of the protein that the immune cells are attacking. For a food allergy, the food causing the allergic response would be attached in order to induce tolerance to peanuts, eggs, shellfish, or other common food allergens.

Stephen Miller, an author of the study and the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explained:

“This is a highly significant breakthrough in translational immunotherapy. The beauty of this new technology is it can be used in many immune-related diseases. We simply change the antigen that’s delivered.”

Bill Heetderks, who directs outside research at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, commented:

“If this works, it is going to be absolutely fantastic. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s going to be another step down the road” towards effective treatment.

So far, the team has shown that the process is safe and tested it in mice. While the effects of treatment lasted for the entire life of the mice, it is not known whether humans would need repeated treatments to maintain the benefits.

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