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This Scientist May Have Just Found A Cure For Multiple Sclerosis

This Scientist May Have Just Found A Cure For Multiple Sclerosis

As of now, multiple sclerosis does not have a cure, but Dr. Su Metcalfe from Cambridge University is out to change that.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling, long-lasting auto-immune disease of the brain and spinal cord. When someone has MS, their immune system attacks the protective covering, known as myelin, that sheaths their nerve fibers. This causes serious communication problems between their brain and the rest of their body. In due time, the illness can cause the nerves themselves to become deteriorated, thereby leading to permanent damage. Though certain treatments have been developed in order to help patients recover more quickly from attacks, slow down or ease the course of the disease, and manage symptoms, no cure exists as of now. But Dr. Su Metcalfe from Cambridge University is out to change that. Her recent research may finally lead to the desperately needed cure for MS.

In an interview with Cambridgeshire Live, Dr. Metcalfe explained, "Some people get progressive MS, so go straight to the severe form of the disease, but the majority have a relapsing or remitting version. It can start from the age of 30, and there's no cure, so all you can do is suppress the immune response, but the drugs that do that have side effects, and you can’t repair the brain. The cost of those drugs is very high, and in the UK there are a lot of people who don’t get treated at all."


 
 
 
 
 
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Dr. Metcalfe may soon be responsible for helping millions of people around the world, as multiple sclerosis currently affects about 2.3 million globally. She discovered the possible cure when working at the university’s department of surgery. She joined together a stem cell particle called a LIF (Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor) with some cutting-edge technology. She revealed, "I discovered a small binary switch, controlled by a LIF, which regulates inside the immune cell itself. LIF is able to control the cell to ensure it doesn’t attack your own body but then releases the attack when needed."


 
 
 
 
 
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She continued, "That LIF, in addition to regulating and protecting us against attacks, 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." Stem cells, cells that can differentiate into other types of cells as well as divide in self-renewal processes to produce more of the same type of stem cells, have long been studied for their ability to cure certain diseases, including cancer.

"So I thought, this is fantastic," stated Dr. Metcalfe. "We can treat auto-immune disease, and we’ve got something to treat MS, which attacks both the brain and the spinal cord. So you have a double whammy that can stop and reverse the auto-immunity, and also repair the damage caused in the brain." However, the stem cell in and of itself in its natural state, as the researcher soon discovered, could only survive outside the cell for 20 minutes before being broken down by the body. This meant deploying it in therapy would prove to be difficult.


 
 
 
 
 
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To overcome this, Dr. Metcalfe used the help of technology - in the form of nanoparticles, in particular. She disclosed, "They are made from the same material as soluble stitches, so they’re compatible with the body and they slowly dissolve. We load the cargo of the LIF into those particles, which become the delivery device that slowly dissolves and delivers the LIF over five days. 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, for example. So you get the right dose, in the right place, and at the right time."

This process is a part of nanomedicine, a division of medical science that utilizes the knowledge and tools of nanotechnology and applies it to the prevention and treatment of various diseases. "Nanomedicine is a new era, and big pharma has already entered this space to deliver drugs while trying to avoid the side effects. The quantum leap is to actually go into biologics and tap into the natural pathways of the body," Dr. Metcalfe stated. "We're not using any drugs, we’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair."


 
 
 
 
 
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As for how safe this treatment is, she is certain that it will not have negative repercussions. She said, "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. Metcalfe currently conducts her research through LIFNano, a nanomedicine company specifically focused on targeted delivery of LIF. The company has already attracted two major funding awards and hopes to start clinical trials by 2020.


 
 
 
 
 
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Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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