Experimental Stem Cell Treatment Gives Hope to Sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis.
The innovative new treatment sees the combination of stem cell treatment with a nanoparticle delivery system, and may pave the way towards a cure for multiple sclerosis (M.S), and other autoimmune diseases.
Biotech company, LIFNano, led by founder, Dr Su Metcalfe, appear to have discovered a way to fight M.S using the body’s own mechanisms.
Multiple Sclerosis (M.S)
MS is an inflammatory and neurodegenerative autoimmune disease caused by the immune system attacking the insulating coating that runs along the outside of nerve cells (myelin). This damages the brain and nervous system and leads to a number of symptoms including fatigue, muscle spasms, speech problems and numbness.
The cause of MS is unknown, making it difficult to prevent and treat. It is estimated that the disease affects around 2.5 millions people worldwide.
Currently the main method of treating MS is to use immunosuppressive drugs which inhibit the overall immune system, and therefore can lead to additional health complications.
The research used LIFNano which is a new treatment based on LIF — a stem cell protein that forms naturally in the body. It is the immune system’s natural response to myelin. It also plays a major role in keeping our brain and spinal cord healthy
“In fact it plays a major role in tissue repair generally, turning on stem cells that are naturally occurring in the body, making it a natural regenerative medicine, but also plays a big part in repairing the brain when it’s been damaged,” said Metcalfe, who has spent years studying the properties of LIF.
Metcalfe only recently discovered the potential for its use as an on/off switch for the body’s immune system.
The major problem she faced was how quickly the LIF breaks down when it is administered into the body. The LIP disappears just 20 minutes after being injected into the body, meaning that it would require a pumping device to inject it constantly if it were to be effective.
A breakthrough came when Metcalfe discovered that she could take what she had discovered about LIF and apply it to nanotechnology, derived from a well-known medical polymer known as PLGA which is already used in stitches.
This ‘nanosphere’ is biodegradable and therefore can be left to dissolve in the body. Metcalfe has therefore developed a method of infusing the nanospheres with LIF, and letting in a sustained dose over a number of days.
In theory, this method of treatment, unlike immunosuppressors should keep the immune system functioning as normal.
“We’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance. Autoimmunity happens when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that.”