Use of ‘Tattoo Gun’ Device Found to Greatly Reduce MS Severity in Mice
TSOI files patents after unexpected success of new approach
Multiple tiny injections of myelin-related small proteins alongside suppressors of the activity of dendritic cells, done using a device akin to a tattoo gun, powerfully reduced the severity of multiple sclerosis (MS) in a mouse model of the disease.
TSOI said it has filed patents related to these findings, noting the approach worked better than “conventional means of administration” for delivering dendritic cells as a means of easing MS symptoms.
“Through our multiple collaborations [in clinical trials] we discover multiple unexpected findings on a regular basis,” said Timothy Dixon, president and CEO of TSOI.
“The advantage of possessing a patent portfolio of 70 issued and pending patents is that our shareholders may benefit not only from successes of products we develop but also from licensing fees in a diverse area of biotechnology,” Dixon said.
Tattoo gun approach may aid in easing disease severity
Dendritic cells are a type of immune cell whose job is to move throughout the body, collecting bits and pieces of molecular debris and putting it on display for the rest of the immune system.
This process is critical for the immune system to detect infectious viruses and bacteria, but it also can play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases like MS, where an inflammatory attack causes damage to the myelin sheath. That fatty coating around nerve fibers helps them send electric signals, and damage to it, called demyelination, is a key factor in MS.
One strategy for inducing MS-like disease in mice is to inject myelin-related proteins that can be taken up by dendritic cells and presented to the immune system to trigger a myelin-damaging immune attack. Prior research has shown that a more potent reaction can be induced when multiple small injections are performed, using a process that’s similar to how a tattoo gun draws images on skin with multiple small injections of ink.
“Utilizing a ‘tattoo gun’ approach evokes a substantial degree of inflammation, which is classically believed to stimulate immunity,” said David Barnett, a consultant to TSOI.
Here, researchers used the approach to simultaneously inject small fragments of the myelin basic protein, a component of the myelin sheath, alongside signaling molecules that inhibit the activation and maturation of dendritic cells. This led to potent suppression of disease symptoms, according to TSOI.
According to the company, although prior research has suggested that modulating dendritic cell activity can reduce MS severity, the power of the effect achieved using the “tattoo gun” approach was unexpected.
“Surprisingly we found that in the presence of inhibitors of dendritic cell maturation factors that this [‘tattoo gun’] approach led to potent generation of ‘suppressive’ immune cells,” Barnett said.
James Veltmeyer, MD, chief medical officer of TSOI, said that the modulation of dendritic cells in these experiments is somewhat similar to biological changes that happen during pregnancy.
While the immune system normally is primed to attack anything that is not the body’s own tissue, during pregnancy, the immune system’s activity shifts so that it won’t attack the developing fetus.
“The quest to replicate the biological condition of pregnancy in which immunologically distinct tissues are not rejected by the host has been the Holy Grail of immunologists for the past century,” Veltmeyer said. “It would be extremely ironic if something as simple as a tattoo gun was the answer.”