Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system that affects the brain and spinal cord. It destroys the nerve’s protective substance (myelin) and it affects mainly young people (20-40 years of age). At the present there are no therapies to treat this disease and the existing treatments, which have numerous side effects, are only effective in the initial stages. MS takes several forms, with new symptoms either occurring in isolated attacks (relapsing forms) or building up over time (progressive forms). NMO is a demyelinating autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the optic nerve and the spinal cord. It can lead to blindness or paraplegia. NMO has a fewer incidence than in MS but the attacks are more severe.
New developments on Antigen-Specific therapy with dendritic cells
Antigen-Specific therapy with dendritic cells represents a major progress in the investigation of the MS and NMO. This type of therapy was developed by the Gastroenterology Unit of the Hospital Clinic, headed by Dr. Julià Panés, which in 2011 conducted a clinical trial in patients with Crohn's disease, also an autoimmune disorder, with relevant results. This technique modulates the patient's defenses specifically and selectively to stop the inflammation caused by both pathologies without altering the other defenses. The treatment consists in isolating and growing in the laboratory (clean room) a type of white blood cells, dendritic cells, and confronting them to fragments of myelin proteins and astrocytes against which the patient’s immune system reacts in pathological conditions. The maturation of these cells leads them to suppress the inflammatory response rather than to promote it.
This research results from a joint decision between GAEM and the IDIBAPS and Hospital Clínic researchers, led by Dr. Pablo Villoslada and Dr. Daniel Benitez, and is based on the experimentation in an autoimmune encephalitis animal model in which there have been have already obtained positive results for the treatment of MS and NMO. "la Caixa" Foundation is the entity financing this research with a contribution of 875,000 euros.
This month will begin the trial with 12 patients with MS and NMO to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the therapy and the study is planned to finish in late 2015. If all expectations are met there will be needed further testing in Europe and it is expected that in mid-2018 this therapy would be already applied in such diseases.
The development of this research, is not only a breakthrough for these conditions, but are expected to be achieved significant results in humans to be applied to other autoimmune and rheumatic diseases such as autoimmune encephalitis, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis.