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6 Jun 2013

Promising results from MS therapy trial

The treatment may help to reduce immune system myelin resistance by up to 75 per cent.

Promising results from a phase one clinical trial of a new multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment indicate that the therapy could soon help the some two million sufferers across the world enjoy a better quality of life.

The condition occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly destroys myelin, the dielectric material which insulates nerves, leading to damage in the brain and spinal column which causes symptoms like spasticity.

However, a human trial involving nine MS patients showed that a new drug could reduce the immune system's resistance to myelin by 50 to 75 per cent. This should result in slower progression and less severe symptoms.

Scientists harnessed up to three billion white blood cells from the affected individuals, processed them to envelop myelin antigens, and then reintroduced them to the body via an intravenous injection.

This disrupts the autoimmune response by encouraging white blood cells to recognise myelin as harmless and avoid destroying it. Damage to the nervous system is therefore limited, resulting in more favourable outcomes.

Northwestern Medicine researchers Stephen Miller said: "In the phase two trial we want to treat patients as early as possible in the disease before they have paralysis due to myelin damage."

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