A vaccination against multiple sclerosis is in progress in the laboratory of SangKon Oh, PhD, at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research. Along with Gerard Zurawski, PhD, and Ted Phillips, MD, Dr. Oh is applying new insights from research in dendritic cell vaccines to a multiple sclerosis vaccine.
“Dr. Oh’s approach is a very unique effort that would harness one’s own immune system to suppress multiple sclerosis in an auto antigen-specific manner without disrupting other aspects of normal immunity,” stated Dr. Phillips in a news releaseprovided by Baylor Scott & White Health. The team’s studies are unique in that they do not adversely affect the immune system like traditional multiple sclerosis treatmentdoes. Instead, the immune system is preserved.
According to a video from Baylor Health Care System, dendritic cell vaccines are engineered by growing a patient’s blood-derived stem cells in vitro to become dendritic cells. These differentiated dendritic cells are then sensitized with immunogenic proteins. After, the dendritic cells are injected into the patient and, similar to a vaccine, prime lymphocytes to attack the immunogenic proteins within the body.
Current work was motivated by the application of dendritic cells to fighting cancer, but a unique property of the cells was discovered that allows their influence on immune function. “We discovered that DC-ASGPR, one of the receptors expressed on human dendritic cells, has novel functions to promote antigen-specific regulatory T-cells that can efficiently suppress inflammatory responses,” said Dr. Oh. “This prompted us to test our discovery in autoimmune diseases where antigens are known.”
From that time, the application of dendritic cell vaccines has grown extraordinarily. A phase 1 clinical trial may be in the works as soon as the year 2017. “We need new treatments that, while highly efficacious, also minimally adversely impact the individual’s immune system,” said Dr. Phillips.
The findings from this research can be further applied to other diseases such as type 1 diabetes. For now, Dr. Oh is focused on their radical new approach to attack multiple sclerosis in its early stages before the immune system suffers damage.