Autoimmune Diseases like multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes could be completely reversed thanks to a new type of vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Chicago.
Typical vaccines teach your immune system to attack viruses and bacteria, but scientists at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering said they have developed what is called an “inverse vaccine.”
It sends an antigen with a fragment of a cell that would be recognized as friendly tissue to the liver. It then ultimately removes the memory of a specific molecule that tells your immune system to attack healthy tissue.
The goal is to reverse autoimmune reactions and inflammation that’s seen in multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The researchers said that they have been able to completely reverse those diseases in a lab setting.
“In the past, we showed that we could use this approach to prevent autoimmunity,” Jeffrey Hubbell, Professor of Tissue Engineering and lead author of a new paper, said in a news release. “But what is so exciting about this work is that we have shown that we can treat diseases like multiple sclerosis after there is already ongoing inflammation, which is more useful in a real-world context.”
In the study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the scientists focused on a multiple-sclerosis-like disease in animals.
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks myelin, a protective coating around nerves, which causes weakness, numbness, loss of vision, mobility problems and paralysis.
The vaccine used in this study attached myelin proteins to antigens. The result, the scientists said, showed that the immune system stopped attacking the myelin and the nerves were allowed to function correctly, reversing symptoms of the disease.
While there are treatments out there now, side effects often lead to a weakened immune system.
“If we could treat patients with an inverse vaccine instead, it could be much more specific and lead to fewer side effects,” Hubbell said.
Human trials for the vaccine are now underway.