After years of research, Dr. Su Metcalfe, a Cambridge scientist, could be on the verge of finding a permanent cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, and it affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.
Immune-mediated diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, occurs when the body's immune cells attack healthy tissues.
In the case of MS, the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath, which covers nerve fibers, causing communication problems between your brain and the rest of the body. Eventually, the disease causes body nerves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Currently, there's no cure for MS, but a new medical breakthrough led by Dr. Su Metcalfe has opened doors to reversing any autoimmunity—and even repairing old damaged cells.
Since there's no permanent remedy for autoimmune-like diseases, doctors treat MS patients with pharmaceuticals intended to suppress their immune system.
Potential Cure For Multiple Sclerosis
During her research, Dr. Su discovered a small binary switch, controlled by a LIF (Leukemia Inhibitory Factor), which regulates inside the immune cell itself.
The LIF keeps the body cells under control, ensuring they don't attack your body, except when they're actually needed.
Dr. Su notes:
"That LIF, in addition to regulating and protecting us against attack, also plays a major role in keeping the brain and spinal cord healthy."
"In fact, it plays a major role in tissue repair generally, turning on stem cells that are naturally occurring in the body, making it a natural regenerative medicine, but also plays a big part in repairing the brain when it's been damaged."
Unfortunately, LIF has a lifetime of only 20 minutes.
Due to this limited lifespan, once the stem-cells enter your body, they wouldn't have enough time for the therapeutic actions to deploy before being broken down. And this is where Nanoparticle Technology comes in.
Roles Of Nanoparticles
When you combine LIF and nanoparticles, you get a perfect solution that's consistent with the body. Nanoparticles deliver and administer the LIF for up to five days.
Dr. Su explains:
"The nanoparticle itself is a protective environment, and the enzymes that break it down can't access it. You can also decorate the surface of the particles with antibodies, so it becomes a homing device that can target specific parts of the brain. So you get the right dose, in the right place, and at the right time."
Positive Effects Of Nano-Medicine
According to Dr. Su:
"Nano-medicine is a new era, and big pharma has already entered this space to deliver drugs while avoiding side effects. The quantum leap is to actually go into biologics and tap into the natural pathways of the body."
"We're not using any drugs. We're simply switching on the body's own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren't any side effects because all we're doing is tipping the balance."
"Auto-immunity happens when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that. Once you've done that, it becomes self-sustaining, and you don't have to keep giving therapy because the body has its balance back."
Dr. Su hopes to start clinical trials by the end of 2020.
"We've got everything we need in place to make the nanoparticles in a clinically compliant manner. It's just a case of flicking the switch when we have the money."
"We're looking at VCs and big pharma because they have a strong interest in this area. We're doing all our pre-clinical work concurrently while bringing in the major funds the company needs to go forward in its own right."
While Dr. Su focuses on MS at the moment, her work can potentially lead to better medical remedies in other major autoimmune disease areas, such as dementia, psoriasis, and diabetes.