Authors: Courtney Johnson
Findings from research at the University of Florida (FL, USA), published recently in the Journal of Immunology Research, demonstrate that autoantigens of myelin coupled with spleen cells and transfused into mice, may prevent the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) as well as reverse the early stages of the disease. Researchers believe that the results are promising, with potential for application in clinical trials utilizing autoantigen therapy in humans with multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS is an autoimmune disorder of the CNS that involves inflammation of the myelin of the optic, brain and spinal cord nerves. Such inflammation results in compromised transmission of nerve impulses within the CNS. According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, there are an estimated 2.5 million sufferers of the disease worldwide.
In the current study, protein fragments of myelin were attached to spleen cells and transfused into mice models. After more than two months, researchers observed that this approach completely prevented the development of EAE in mice and reversed the damaging effects of early-stage EAE. Investigators hypothesize that the coupled compounds stimulate the generation of beneficial immune cells that aid in preventing the inflammatory process that leads to EAE as well as aiding in the suppression of more damaging cells involved in the disorder.
Although this approach for treating immune disorders is not new, Chang-Qing Xia (University of Florida College of Medicine) and collaborators at the Capital Medical University in Beijing, China, have introduced a new chemical known as sulfo-SMCC into the coupling process. When compared to the alternative coupling method of EDIC, the process involving sulfo-SMCC is faster and easier, as well as less toxic to cells. In addition, as sulfo-SMCC is US-FDA approved and involved with drug delivery in several clinical trials, the time required to transfer this treatment from bench to human trials may be accelerated.
“The most important thing is that these findings are highly translatable to the clinic,” Xia commented.
Xia acknowledges that EAE in animals is not an identical pathological model to MS, however, postulates that they do possess enough similarities for this autoantigen–coupling method to be transferable to MS autoimmune treatment in humans.
“If it works on EAE, it also should work on MS because the two diseases are similar immunologically and pathologically,” Xia remarked.
Further research is required before the efficacy and utility of this autoantigen therapy can be examined on a larger scale in human MS models but the team hope to move in to clinical trials as soon as possible given the appropriate support.
Sources: University of Florida Press Release; Yin L, Chen X, Tiwari A, Vicini P, Hickling TP. The role of aggregates of therapeutic protein products in immunogenicity: an evaluation by mathematical modeling. J. Immunol. Res. doi:10.1155/2015/401956 (2015) (Epub ahead of print).