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Experimental therapeutic vaccine could benefit MS sufferers

An experimental vaccine against multiple sclerosis appears to be safe and may produce beneficial changes in patients' brains and immune systems, according to research published in the Archives of Neurology journal

An experimental vaccine against multiple sclerosis (MS) appears to be safe and may produce beneficial changes in patients' brains and immune systems, according to research published in the Archives of Neurology journal.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological institute said that some patients appeared to have fewer immune cells attacking their nervous system and they also appeared to have fewer cerebral lesions.

In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There remains no cure for the disorder and symptoms can include blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, extreme fatigue, paralysis and blindness.

Dr Amit Bar-Or of the Montreal Neurological Institute and colleagues tested the vaccine, which is called BHT-3009 and manufactured by US-based Bayhill Therapeutics, in 30 patients. The therapeutic vaccine does not prevent infection but targets malfunctioning CD4 T-cells which attack myelin. The study patients received regular magnetic resonance imaging scans up to a year after the first injections.

According to the Canadian researchers, BHT-3009 was safe, well tolerated and provided favourable trends on brain MRI and produced beneficial antigen-specific immune changes. These changes included fewer immune cells programmed to target myelin.

The company has already begun a phase II trial of the vaccine in 290 MS patients.

If successful, antigen-specific DNA vaccines could be developed for prevention or treatment of related diseases, such as type 1 diabetes mellitus, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and myasthenia gravis.

14th August 2007

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