In a major breakthrough for nanotechnology, Northwestern Medicine researchers have succeeded in stopping multiple sclerosis in its tracks.
They've used a biodegradable nanoparticle to deliver an antigen that tricks the immune system into stopping its attack on myelin. It effectively deals with a model of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis - the variety that affects 80 percent of sufferers - in mice.
The new nanotechnology can also, they say, be applied to a variety of immune-mediated diseases including Type 1 diabetes, along with food and airway allergies.
And it doesn't suppress the entire immune system, as do current therapies, which make patients more susceptible to everyday infections and cancer. Rather, when the nanoparticles are attached to myelin antigens and injected into the mice, the immune system is reset to normal.
"This is a highly significant breakthrough in translational immunotherapy," says Stephen Miller of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "The beauty of this new technology is it can be used in many immune-related diseases. We simply change the antigen that's delivered."
The nanoparticle is made from an easily-produced and already FDA-approved substance - a polymer called Poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG), which consists of lactic acid and glycolic acid, both natural metabolites in the human body. It's most commonly used for biodegradable sutures.
"We administered these particles to animals who have a disease very similar to relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and stopped it in its tracks," says Miller. "We prevented any future relapses for up to 100 days, which is the equivalent of several years in the life of an MS patient."
Shea and Miller are now testing the nanoparticles to treat Type one diabetes and airway diseases such as asthma.