For generations of us, whenever we hear the words "mRNA vaccines", we'll flash back to this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the term may one day bring as much promise to other pressing diseases.
A new study now explores using an mRNA vaccine to treat a form of Multiple Sclerosis or MS. It's a progressive autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own brain and spinal cord. The immune cells destroy a protective covering on nerve cells called the myelin sheath. This disrupts the brain's ability to communicate with other parts of the body. Nerves that control muscles and even the optic nerves in the eye are permanently damaged. Eventually, the muscles used to breath also fail.
This mRNA vaccine is developed by BioNTech, the same company that partnered with Pfizer to produce its COVID vaccine. And it's effective against a mouse model of an MS-like disease called autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
The vaccine is wrapped in a protective nano-particle until it can reach the targeted site in the body. Remarkably, the mice stopped showing symptoms and those with paralysis regained muscle function. Meanwhile, the control mice continued to worsen.
But know that while autoimmune encephalomyelitis is similar to MS, it is not the same disease. And curing mice with a therapy does not mean it'll do the same for humans.
What this study does show is the promise of mRNA vaccines and the importance of basic research that brought this technology to us.
For more information…
A noninflammatory mRNA vaccine for treatment of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), result from a breach of immunological self-tolerance and tissue damage by autoreactive T lymphocytes. Current treatments can cause systemic immune suppression and side effects such as increased risk of infections. Krienke et al. designed a messenger RNA vaccine strategy that lacks adjuvant activity and delivers MS autoantigens into lymphoid dendritic cells. This approach expands a distinct type of antigen-specific effector regulatory T cell that suppresses autoreactivity against targeted autoantigens and promotes bystander suppression of autoreactive T cells against other myelin-specific autoantigens. In mouse models of MS, the vaccine delayed the onset and reduced the severity of established disease without showing overt symptoms of general immune suppression...
Mayo Clinic Multiple Sclerosis Information Page
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves...