Scientists May Soon Find a Cure for Multiple Sclerosis

Research using nanotech may be the key.

Oct 21, 2019

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Nanotechnology is being used in industry including construction materials, fuels, manufacturing clothing, food production, as well as in medicine. Now it is being used as a way to possibly help cure Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

A Cambridge University spin-out company LIFNano, is working on a new approach to the treatment of MS that uses nanoparticles to deliver the LIF, short for Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor protein whose job is to repair damaged tissue in the body to the brain.

According to Pharmaceutical Technology, LIFNano's founder, Dr. Su Metcalfe, believes this could work as a "flip switch" in the brain and cure this debilitating autoimmune neurological condition that usually begins in young adults. 2.3 million people are affected around the world, and while symptoms can vary in severity, they usually include fatigue, difficulty walking, muscle stiffness, and spasms. The disease occurs when the body begins an autoimmune attack on the brain and spinal cord. That is what Metcalfe wants to switch off.

“Specifically the autoimmune attack is against the myelin sheath that normally insulates the electrical activity of nerve fibers,” Metcalfe told Pharmaceutical Technology. “This underlies the cause of MS, where loss of myelin in turn leads to a wide range of symptoms as specific nerves become inflamed and lose function.”

At this time, there is no cure for MS. Current treatments suppress the immune system and have some success in slowing the disease progression. They also bring with them many unwanted side effects and leave the patient at risk for infections, according to Metcalfe.

“Our goal is to deliver LIFNano as a precision medicine with unique curative potential at the root cause of multiple sclerosis, rather than dealing with the symptoms,” Metcalfe told Pharmaceutical Technology. “By harnessing the body’s own power to heal the brain, we aim to meet the most urgent need in MS treatment.”

Previously, there was no way to safely deliver LIF to the brain so it could begin to repair the damage. The LIF broke down too quickly to be able to work. According to LIFNano, the companie's ground-breaking new technology using nanoparticles is able to deliver LIF in a  controlled manner.

Following this breakthrough discovery, the company has already tested the product on animals, and it has been proven safe and effective. Since LIF is not a drug, it doesn't have the side effects of MS therapies.

This research is still in the pre-clinical stage and has not been tested on people. The company now has two large funding awards from Merck and from the government of the UK. The company is looking to begin clinical trials in 2020.

“Our development of LIFNano to treat MS is greatly de-risked for eventual FDA approval,” said Metcalfe. “To move forward to the clinic as quickly as possible we have identified a team of highly skilled specialists who are able to manufacture the clinical grade LIFNano Nano Particles, bringing a world-leading technology able to tap into the body’s own ability to protect and repair itself.”

If these trials are successful, it will mean that people could actually be cured of MS. If this new technology can be used for other autoimmune diseases, it will make a real difference in the quality of life for millions of people worldwide.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.