At the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research (BIIR), a division of the Baylor Research Institute, a vaccine-based therapy to treat and prevent multiple sclerosis is in the early stages of development. The research team is led by principal investigator Dr. SangKon Oh and includes Dr. Gerard Zurawski and Dr. Ted Phillips. They’ve been working on this project for three years, with early and promising results now surfacing.
Drawing inspiration from previous research related to dendritic cells for cancer and infectious diseases, the study uses a drastically different approach than employed by traditional MS treatments. In that research, scientists isolated a special property of cancer cells that could influence the behavior of the immune system and play a role in treating autoimmune diseases like MS. Traditional treatments, though often effective, can negatively affect immune system function. BIIR’s new vaccine-based therapy doesn’t appear to encounter any of the same limitations.
“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,” Oh said in a press release from BIIR. “This prompted us to test our discovery in autoimmune diseases where antigens are known.”
Oh is hopeful that the team’s study can enter a Phase I clinical trial in the next three years. And, researchers will apply their findings to future studies about dendritic cell vaccines, including a planned research project on type 1 diabetes.
“Dr. Oh’s approach is a very unique effort that would harness one’s own immune system to suppress MS in an auto antigen-specific manner without disrupting other aspects of normal immunity,” said Dr. Phillips in the press release. His work has included a focus on MS for more than three decades.