Early Findings Suggest Potential New Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
APRIL 21, 2017
Researchers from The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, led by Michael Pender, MD, PhD, sought to investigate the relationship between MS and the common herpes virus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a virus that causes no symptoms in most people, but often leads to mononucleosis if contracted as a teenager or adult.
The study focused on the initial 6 people with progressive MS who also had moderate-to-severe disability. The researchers found that some MS patients experience altered immune response leading T cells to be unable to control EBV-infected B cells. The cells, when accumulated, would produce antibodies that destroy myelin.
For the study, the team removed the patients’ own T cells and stimulated them to recognize and kill all cells infected with EBV. Patients were injected with infusions of escalating T cells doses every 2 to 8 weeks and were followed through 26 weeks specifically to assess side effects and potential signs of improvement.
The hope was that eliminating EBV-infected B cells could suppress myelin eradication in MS patients, curbing the incidence of neurologic dysfunction.
According to Pender, even though the initial goal of the study wasn’t to measure the treatment's efficacy, 3 of the 6 study participants reportedly had mproved symptoms following the first infusion:
· One person with secondary progressive MS had a significant increase in ambulation from 100 yards with a walker at the start of the study, and over the previous 5 years, to ¾ of a mile, and was later able to walk shorter distances with only one-sided assistance.
· Another participant exhibited improved color vision and visual acuity.
· All 3 responding patients showed improvements in fatigue and the ability to complete daily activities.
Despite these positive results, the researchers acknowledged the need for a larger patient cohort to further evaluate the findings. “While these results are very preliminary and much more research is needed, we are excited there were no serious side effects,” Pender said.