Phase 1 of the clinical trial for that treatment found that the therapy was "safe and dramatically reduced patients' immune systems' reactivity to myelin by 50 to 75 percent," according a Northwestern Medicine release.
In MS, the immune system attacks myelin, which is an insulating layer around the nerves in the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve. The result: symptoms ranging from mild limb numbness to paralysis or blindness.
"The therapy stops autoimmune responses that are already activated and prevents the activation of new autoimmune cells," said Stephen Miller, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Our approach leaves the function of the normal immune system intact. That's the holy grail."
The trial uses the MS patients' own specially- processed white blood cells to deliver billions of myelin antigens into their bodies so their immune systems would recognize them as harmless and develop tolerance to them.
The study, which includes more than 30 years of preclinical research, was published June 5 in the journal "Science Translation Medicine."