May 21, 2024

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“Reverse Vaccine” Offers Reversal for Autoimmune Diseases

“Reverse Vaccine” Offers Reversal for Autoimmune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, and Arthritis

“Reverse Vaccine” Offers Reversal for Autoimmune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, and Arthritis.

Researchers have developed a “reverse vaccine” that can reverse the damage caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy organs and tissues in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

This breakthrough paves the way for treating these conditions without the need to suppress the entire immune system.

Traditionally, vaccines instruct the body’s immune system to recognize invading viruses or bacteria as enemies to be eliminated.

Now, researchers at the University of Chicago have created a “reverse vaccine” that does the opposite.


"Reverse Vaccine" Offers Reversal for Autoimmune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, and Arthritis



This novel vaccine erases the immune system’s memory of a particular molecule, a memory that is undesirable when combating pathogens but may prove therapeutic in autoimmune diseases.

The role of immune system T cells is to identify specific foreign antigens on the surface of harmful cells and mount an attack against them. However, T cells sometimes make errors. In autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, T cells generate self-reactivity, mistakenly perceiving healthy organs and tissues as foreign invaders.

Researchers recognized the importance of the liver in mediating local and systemic tolerance to self-antigens and foreign antigens. They leveraged the liver’s natural mechanism of tagging molecules with a “do not attack” label for degradation within cells, preventing autoimmune reactions against naturally dying cells. By coupling antigens with molecules resembling aged cell fragments, the liver identifies them as friends rather than foes.

Jeffrey Hubbell, the lead author of the study, stated, “In the past, we’ve shown that this approach can prevent autoimmunity, but what’s exciting here is that we’ve demonstrated that it can treat diseases like multiple sclerosis when inflammation is already ongoing, which is more relevant in the real world.”

The liver’s role in “peripheral immune tolerance” is a mechanism where self-reactive T cells are eliminated or become unresponsive (functionally unresponsive to antigens) to prevent inappropriate immune responses. In previous research, scientists found that a sugar-labeled molecule called N-acetyl galactosamine (pGal) could mimic this process, delivering molecules to the liver and inducing tolerance to these molecules.

Hubbell explained, “Our idea was that we could attach any molecule to pGal, and the immune system would become tolerant to it. We’re not enhancing immunity like with a vaccine; instead, we’re suppressing immunity in a very specific way through the reverse vaccine.”

In their current research, scientists focused on a mouse model resembling multiple sclerosis, where the immune system attacks the insulating sheath, called myelin, around nerves. They linked myelin protein to pGal and tested the effects of the reverse vaccine, finding that the immune system ceased its attack on myelin, allowing nerves to function normally and reversing disease symptoms.

Currently, treatment for autoimmune diseases often involves immunosuppressive drugs that affect the entire immune system, which is less than ideal.

Hubbell noted, “These treatments can be very effective, but they also block the immune responses needed to fight infections, resulting in many side effects. If we could treat patients with a reverse vaccine, it would be more targeted and have fewer side effects.”

The first-stage clinical trials are currently underway to evaluate the safety of this therapy for multiple sclerosis patients. While reverse vaccines have not yet received clinical approval, researchers are incredibly excited about advancing this technology.

This research was published in the journal “Nature Biomedical Engineering.”





“Reverse Vaccine” Offers Reversal for Autoimmune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, and Arthritis

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Important Note: The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.