Vaccine for Multiple Sclerosis in the Works
A vaccine for multiple sclerosis is in the working stages right now at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research. While this research is not the only effort being undertaken to find a way to prevent MS, it does entail a unique approach.
The new research for a vaccine for multiple sclerosis differs from other treatment methods for the disease because it is designed to use the individual’s own immune system to fight off the attack. That is, the person’s immune system is not damaged or compromised, as other treatments are prone to do.
Under the direction of SangKon Oh, PhD, at Baylor, a team of scientists are adapting current research on dendritic cell vaccines to develop a vaccine for multiple sclerosis. Dendritic cell vaccines (also known as dendritic cell therapy) is a type of immunotherapy that focuses on both the prevention of cancer and treatment of advanced cancer.
So far, scientists have had some limited success using this approach in cancer patients who have not responded to other therapies. For example, a new review and meta-analysis appearing in Cancer Investigation reported that immunotherapy was associated with significantly longer two-year and overall survival when compared with conventional therapy in patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer.
Now Dr. Oh and his team are using this approach to develop a vaccine for multiple sclerosis. Briefly, the process involves
- Withdrawing blood from a patient and growing dendritic cells from the individual’s stem cells
- Treating the dendritic cells with immunogenic proteins (which means they are capable of causing an immune response)
- Injecting the treated dendritic cells into the patient, where they then work on the immune system
Dr. Oh and his team discovered that in addition to dendritic cells having an ability to fight cancer, they also have an impact on the function of the immune system. Specifically, the scientists found that “one of the receptors expressed on human dendritic cells has novel functions to promote antigen-specific regulatory T-cells that can efficiently suppress inflammatory responses," as reported in a Multiple Sclerosis News Today article.
This is good news for those aiming to prevent multiple sclerosis. However, progress in this research is slow, and a Phase I clinical trial likely will not be initiated until 2017.
Other multiple sclerosis vaccine research
Another vaccine being studied for multiple sclerosis is the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine. This is a tuberculosis vaccine that is frequently administered in countries other than the United States where the disease is a problem.
The BCG vaccine has been studied in individuals who showed a single episode of symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Overall, 42 percent of the 73 participants who received the vaccine developed multiple sclerosis compared with 70 percent of those in the placebo group. Use of the vaccine was not associated with any significant side effects.
The search for a vaccine for multiple sclerosis continues. It is hoped that this new study of dendritic cells plus other explorations will soon result in a viable vaccine.
Read about stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis
Baylor Institute for Immunology Research
Multiple Sclerosis News Today, 2014 Sep 24
Ristori G et al. Effects of bacilli calmette-guerin after the first demyelinating event in the CNS. Neurology 2013 Dec 4. Epub before print
Wang X et al. Dendritic cell-based vaccine for the treatment of malignant glioma: a systematic review. Cancer Investigation 2014 Sep 26