Preventive vaccination against multiple sclerosis?

Preventive vaccination against multiple sclerosis: Scientists at the TU Dresden are on the verge of the decisive breakthrough in MS therapy: Apparently they have succeeded in finding a way to develop a vaccine to prevent multiple sclerosis. The treatment of the autoimmune disease should work in a similar way to anti-allergy therapy, the overreaction of the immune system is reduced by a vaccination.

Around 120,000 people in Germany suffer from incurable multiple sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis is the most common chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system in Central Europe. Women are affected twice as often as men. The life expectancy of patients with MS is six to ten years less than that of people who are not sick. Despite extensive research, it has not yet been possible to find the actual trigger for the serious illness. However, it is known that MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defenses attack the protective covering of the nerve fibers. The immune system is no longer able to differentiate between the body's own and foreign proteins. For this reason, the body's defenses produce antibodies against its own tissue. The first symptoms of MS usually appear between the ages of 15 and 40 in the form of a flare-up. The symptoms usually worsen during the attacks.

Overreaction of the immune defense should be deactivated
Researchers at the DFG Research Center for Regenerative Therapies at the TU Dresden and the US American Harvard University in Boston have now reported in the science magazine "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" that it is possible to deactivate the overreaction of the immune system in order to prevent the stop destructive immune cells. The scientists oriented their research on the therapeutic approach to treating allergies. In allergy therapy, the organism is desensitized, which means that the body gets used to the allergy trigger step by step.

During the course of the study, Jack Strominger's researchers administered the body's own proteins, so-called antigens, to mice. The injection normalizes the immune system's tolerance to the body's own proteins. Some successes have already been achieved in the trials. So far, studies in which patients were given endogenous proteins to de-sensitize the immune system had failed. But now, according to the head of studies at TU Dresden, Karsten Kretschmer, a decisive breakthrough has been achieved. The researchers differentiated the previous method by not simply administering the body's own proteins, but by coupling the proteins specifically to cells that trigger MS with the help of antibodies. "We think we have found the right trick," said Kretschmer. "You only need the smallest amounts of antigens, a single dose is enough".

Preventive vaccination for children diagnosed with a possible outbreak
Primarily children who have been diagnosed with an outbreak of multiple sclerosis should benefit from the new therapeutic approach. However, it will be a long time before such a preventive therapy can be offered. The vaccination may be available in 10 to 15 years at most, the researchers said. The next step should be a therapy approach for people already suffering from MS.

New MS drug approved in the US
Another glimmer of hope could be the active ingredient fingolimod. A few days ago the FDA approved a drug for the treatment of MS. Studies had shown that the active ingredient can reduce the number of flare-ups and works better than the previous treatment with beta interferons. Approval for the drug has also been applied for in the EU. It is still open until the drug is also approved in the European Union. First of all, the benefits and side effects must be checked. (sb, 10/08/2010)

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