Reporting in the June 9 Archives of Neurology, the Johns Hopkins team said the disease appeared to reverse course for seven of the nine patients over two years following treatments. Overall, the patients, men and women ranging in age from 20 to 47 at the beginning of the study, experienced a 40 percent reduction in scores of a standard test that measures disability. They also had an overall 87 percent improvement in scores on a composite test that measures physical and mental function.
MS, which affects approximately 400,000 people - predominantly women - in the United States, is believed to occur when the body's immune system attacks the insulating sheath that coats nerve cells, causing it to degenerate. Consequently, electrical signals that the cells use to communicate with the rest of the body become progressively weaker, leading to symptoms that include numbness, tingling, cognitive problems and sometimes paralysis.
Researchers have identified four different subtypes of MS, and each is thought to be caused by a different autoimmune process. As a result, developing a treatment that effectively targets all types of MS has been challenging, says Kerr.
Kerr cautions that the "reboot" phenomenon didn't work in all the patients. Two years after treatment, MRI images showed that the disease had reactivated in about half the study participants, suggesting that their renewed ability may not be permanent.
Kerr's colleague Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is leading efforts to improve HiCy therapy with a blood test in development that could predict which patients would benefit the most from HiCy treatment. Also, since immune cells that regrow after HiCy treatment may contain the same defect that leads to MS, Kaplin and his colleagues are working on a way to regrow only healthy
|Contact: Christen Brownlee|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions