Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered a biodegradable nanoparticle that can help stop the immune system from attacking parts of the body, as seen in diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, food allergies, asthma and multiple sclerosis (MS).
The researchers focused on MS, which attacks the nervous system and can result in paralysis and blindness. Specifically they targeted MS relapse, which occurs in about 80% of diagnosed patients.
Whereas current therapies suppress the entire immune system, making patients more susceptible to everyday infections and even cancer, the nanoparticle from Northwestern simply attaches to an antigen that resets the immune system to normal. In the case of MS, a myelin antigen is used because the disease targets myelin, which insulates nerve cells in the brain. Once this antigen is delivered via the new nanoparticle, the immune system no longer recognizes myelin as an alien invader and stops attacking it.
So far the Northwestern researchers have found success testing the nanoparticle on mice, and they are now in phase I/II clinical trials with humans. “The beauty of this new technology is it can be used in many immune-related diseases. We simply change the antigen that’s delivered,” says Stephen Miller, honored Northwestern research professor and co-author of the nanoparticle study.
Lonnie Shea, the Northwestern professor and co-author who developed the nanoparticle, says the discovery “is a major breakthrough in nanotechnology, showing you can use it to regulate the immune system.”
There are a number of key advantages to using the nanoparticle: it is cheaper and easier to manufacture than current therapies; it is composed of natural metabolites found in the human body; and it is already FDA-approved, which would help expedite the move from lab to market.
“The overarching goal,” says Scott Johnson, CEO of the Myelin Repair Foundation, “is to ensure this important therapeutic pathway has its best chance to reach patients with MS and all autoimmune diseases.”
Source: Fierce Biotech
Posted November 28th, 2012 under Tech Transfer