“This technology could be very effective,” says Timothy Coetzee, PhD, chief research officer for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
What remains to be seen is whether the researchers have picked the right proteins that might turn off the disease in humans, he says.
“Will these peptides actually induce tolerance in people? We just don’t know. It’s rational, but we won’t know until we get it into people,” says Coetzee, who was not involved in the research.
The research is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Myelin Repair Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and the Australian government.
In multiple sclerosis, the body attacks its own myelin. Like the insulation around electric wires, myelin is a material that coats nerve fibers, allowing them to effectively carry signals that power the body.
Over time, people with MS may develop a host of problems related to myelin damage, including trouble with muscle coordination, movement, numbness, pain, and vision problems. About 80% of people with MS have the relapsing-remitting form. The mice in this study were bred to have this type of MS.
Researchers wondered if they could stop that process by making use of the body's "garbage disposal system." In addition to protecting the body from foreign invaders, an important role of the immune system is getting rid of dead cells.