The patient is in a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis.
About 15,000 people suffer from MS in Switzerland alone. In a new study, the likely cause remains to be countered. Long-Covid research can also benefit from this.
A new study by the American company Atara Biotherapeutics has raised hopes of an entirely new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). In this autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the covering of the nerves, causing those affected to develop motor problems because nerve signals can no longer be transmitted properly. Later, the nerve cells also die. The new treatment now aims to combat the presumed cause. For this purpose, certain cells of the immune system are implanted to fight the Epstein-Barr virus.
The relationship between this virus and multiple sclerosis has been known for some time. And a large study published in the journal Science in January reinforced the suspicion that the virus that causes glandular fever may also trigger MS. After infection, the Epstein-Barr virus remains in the body in the B cells of the immune system for life. It is believed that in rare cases such B cells reach the brain and attack the body’s own cells there.
Destroying these remaining viruses may be a therapeutic option not only for MS but also for other autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and lupus. And if living in the body is also responsible for long covid, then MS research may offer helpful parallels.
Even the healing of the damage was observed
The new therapy was tested on 24 subjects with progressive multiple sclerosis. It is the form of the disease that does not progress in episodes with a phase of recovery, but gets progressively worse.
Participants were injected with immune cells from donors infected with Epstein-Barr virus. These aim to attack cells that contain the Epstein-Barr virus. Promising results: In 20 test individuals, symptoms stabilized or even improved. Thanks to a technique based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the regrowth of damaged insulation around nerve tracts can also be detected.
However, the result should be taken with caution. Claire Walton of the Multiple Sclerosis Society UK described the results as encouraging for the specialist journal New Scientist, but there were other treatments that looked promising in the early clinical stages. Larger studies may have shown no effect. The Atara Biotherapeutics study did not yet have a control group. In the next phase, 80 more patients are to participate.
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