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Vaccine hope for MS from BioNTech in mouse study

An experimental non-inflammatory vaccine which was designed to reduce the damaging immune system responses that happen in multiple sclerosis (MS) has delayed the onset of MS and the severity of the symptoms in mice, a new study has found.

The subject of vaccines has dominated the news of late, and in fact German company BioNTech is behind this MS-related vaccine. The company is the co-creator of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and the treatment they’ve developed uses similar technology to the Covid- 19 vaccines.

Researchers are particularly excited by this latest result, however, because the mice which received the drug did not show signs of immune suppression. This is important because currently, disease-modifying drugs used to treat MS inhibit the immune system overall, which can cause other problems and side effects, including making you more prone to getting ill because the body cannot fight infection as effectively.

BioNTech say this experimental vaccine might revolutionise treatment for MS buy re-educating regulatory T-cells, a type of immune cell that typically dampens inflammatory responses, to tolerate myelin proteins and dampen the immune system’s reactions against them. In this way it is different from a standard vaccine as instead of stimulating the immune system to recognize and fight a particular thing, it increases tolerance of specific molecules.

The other way it differs is it delivers messenger RNA (mRNA), which is a molecule generated from DNA, rather than protein fragments, to cells. mRNA is a template for protein production, so when it enters cells, it contains instructions to produce a protein which the immune system then ‘sees’.  

The researchers tested the vaccine on several mouse models of MS and results from all tests showed that is prevented the development of disease, or halted progression and restored the mice’s motor functions in those which were already in the early stage of disease.

The scientists also reported finding fewer pro-inflammatory immune cells in the brains and spinal cords of the mice, as well as less myelin damage.

Published in the journal Science, the study has given researchers hope for a breakthrough treatment for humans but because this has so far only been tested using a mouse model, much more research is needed to discover whether it is safe and effective for humans.

Source: MS-UK 25 January

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