The National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, based in Japan, announced that they will initiate a 3-month clinical trial on 9 patients with multiple sclerosis, beginning in March. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease caused by mutations of lymphocyte immune cells, which attack and destroy a patient’s own nerve cells. Patients with multiple sclerosis typically experience debilitating symptoms such as numbness, motion problems, and vision loss. About 2 million people around the globe are estimated to be affected by the disease.
“We are hopeful as preliminary studies have produced very good results,” said Takashi Yamamura, head of the institute’s immunology department. The drug developed by Ymamura stimulates an immune cell, which could help prevent the attacks of lymphocytes and produce a protein to suppress inflammation in nerve cells. As part of the study, the drug will be taken in a powder form dissolved in water.
According to a recent study published on the website of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group of Japanese and U.S. researchers revealed the mechanism behind the formation of autoantibodies, which attack patient’s own cells and tissues. The findings indicated a new cause of autoimmune diseases, which is different from what was previously known as an abnormal immune response. Now, researchers believe that the autoantibodies might be produced to target both a specific protein and MHC class-II molecules, which play a role in alerting the presence of foreign substances to immune cells.
In response to these new findings, Yamamura’s experimental drug “stimulates a type of immune cell that softens the attacks by lymphocytes and creates a protein that suppresses inflammation.” Researchers will deliver the drug in liquid form to the participants.
The researchers hope the findings will also be of help in the diagnosis and development of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation on the joints.