A new study published in the journal Nature Communications shows that scientists may have discovered a way to stop autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis or Type 1 diabetes by retraining the immune system.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The study was published by researchers from Bristol University, and shows that the immune system can be taught to stop treating harmless everyday proteins as if they were dangerous invasive diseases.
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In Multiple sclerosis (MS) the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths which protect nerve fibers. These nerves carry messages to and from the brain, and if they are disrupted, it leads to a host of problems such as loss of mobility, vision impairment and fatigue.
By synthesizing proteins from the sheaths in a lab and then injecting them into the blood stream at increasing doses, the body begins to learn that they are safe and no longer attacks them.
This type of therapy has already been used in treating some allergies, a treatment that is called allgergic desensitisation, but it’s only recently that scientists have thought it had potential to be used elsewhere.
Researchers at the University of Bristol said that this “important breakthrough” could improve the lives of millions of people who suffer from a range of diseases.
The study’s author Dr. Bronwen Burton said that “The immune system works by recognizing antigens which could cause infection. In allergies the immune system mounts a response to something like pollen or nuts because it wrongly believes they will harm the body.
“But in autoimmune diseases the immune systems sees little protein fragments in your own tissue as foreign invaders and starts attacking them. What we have found is that by synthesizing those proteins in a soluble form we can desensitize the immune system by giving an escalating dose.”
The team hopes that this breakthrough could lead to the development of immunotherapies for individual conditions, based on the proteins or antigens that the body is responding too.
Professor David Wraith, of the university’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, said the research has opened up “exciting new opportunities.”
“These findings have important implications for the many patients suffering from autoimmune conditions that are currently difficult to treat,” he added.