A recent press release from the  Immune Response BioPharma  Corporation through BriefingWire [1] brought news about very interesting new avenue of Multiple Sclerosis treatment: a vaccine

MS vaccine?

Below is a video release by the  company to YouTube

 

First of all why is this new medicine called a vaccine?

The narrow definition of vaccine here is the  injection of  dead or attenuated viruses in order to prepare the body to a massive attack of full strength viruses of the same species or strain. The preparation is done by giving the immune system the ID (antibodies markers) of the future attacker, so that the immune system will waste no time figuring out what is happening and who is the attacker.

The broader definition of a vaccine applies to certain experimental treatments of Cancer, and even Multiple Sclerosis. It could be defined as any treatment that  takes advantage of the fact that certain illnesses could be fought by one’s own immune system, if providing it with  some guidance.  The guidance consists  in flagging the disease as an antigen, since antigens is what the immune system will go after. The flagging is what the vaccination provides.

Cancer vaccines: Any protein produced in a tumor cell that has an abnormal structure due to mutation can act as a tumor antigen (Wikipedia). A cancer vaccine will help the immune system target the specific cancer antigen produced by that type of cancer.

Multiple Sclerosis vaccine: Looking at [2], “…Monthly vaccinations over one year with NeuroVax™ markedly expanded the capacity of regulatory T cells (Tregs) to recognize TCRs  (T Cell Receptor (TCR) peptide) expressed by potentially pathogenic T cells…”  In other words the vaccine helps the immune systems T cells  police themselves. Think of it as the “Internal Affairs” service of a police department.

We should understand that not all vaccines can eradicate the target disease, as their success depends on the immune system capabilities. This explains why Neurovax is given monthly. Another image would be that the process is similar to sending advisers on the ground to help an army in distress: It can be a case of too little too late or if the symbiosis between the army and the advisers goes well, the battle is won.

Notes:

  • The same mechanism appears to be important in the pathogenesis of other autoimmune diseases such as RA and psoriasis.[2]
  • NeuroVax is going on phase II clinical trials, so  there is still way to go before a working treatment is on the market
  • The press release covered what seems to be a licensing agreement between  this biotech company, Immune Response BioPharma, and  the Oregon State University OHSU  “Patent Coverage through 2027 with U.S. Patent 8,053,197 Licensed from OHSU for Auto-Immune Diseases Proprietary FOXP3 Expression Technology” Some digging on our part unearthed an article describing research results  from the OHSU on a very similar topic , if not the same [3]. What is surprising is that this article was published in the journal nature in 1996!    i.e. 16 years ago, ages in terms of current research speed.

Should we rejoice or cry? Let us see this as the proverbial half full glass…

Sources:

[1] BriefingWire ; “Immune Response BioPharma Licenses U.S. Patent 8,053,197 from OHSU Protects NeuroVax Technology” ; Dec 9, 2011

[2] Immune Response BioPharma ; “Presss Release on Neurovax ;

[3] Nature/Medicine ; “Treatment of multiple sclerosis with T−cell receptor peptides: Results of a double−blind pilot trial”; Nature Medicine 2, 1109 – 1115 (1996!)

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