The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) and the University of Maryland Fischell Department of Bioengineering are collaborating in a research initiative that aims to increase our understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The project is being led by Christopher M. Jewell, PhD, an assistant professor in bioengineering. Jewell will explore whether nanotechnology can control the disease without compromising the immune system, which can leave patients at risk of infection.
The team expects that this preclinical research will contribute to reducing the costs and burden of MS for the patients and families.
Titled “Tunable assembly of regulatory immune signals to promote myelin-specific tolerance,” the project will explore approaches to controlling MS with “vaccine-like specificity” to maintain a functional immune system. Funding worth $1.1 million over four years is coming from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research and Development.
Preclinical and clinical studies have looked at the idea that co-administration of a myelin peptide and tolerizing immune signals to lymph node tissues that coordinate immune responses could promote the development of regulatory T-cells (known as Tregs). Tregs are a group of T-cells known to maintain order in the immune system and prevent autoimmune diseases.
“This research will study a new idea to promote TREGS that control disease and importantly, test the idea in both pre-clinical models and in samples from human MS patients,” Jewell said in a press release. “We hope the project will shed new light on some of the mechanisms of autoimmunity, and contribute to more specific and long-lasting treatment options for veterans that also reduce the financial burden on veterans and their families.”
A possible link between military service and the development of multiple sclerosis is acknowledged by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and those who diagnosed with the disease within seven years of active military service may be eligible for VA healthcare benefits.
“The potential outcomes of this research can bring lasting improvements to lives of veterans struggling with MS and to their families, who often serve as caregivers,” said Adam Robinson, director of VAMHCS.