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Biotech Science

DNA Vaccine May Treat Multiple Sclerosis 127

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-for-what-ails-you dept.
GSASoftware writes "Multiple sclerosis is a serious, as-yet incurable neurological disease which causes blindness, paralysis and other serious symptoms. In a new development, a neuroimmunology researcher in Montreal has developed a therapeutic DNA vaccine. The cause of the disease is not fully understood, but it appears to be auto-immune. If a DNA vaccine can be an effective therapy for this auto-immune disease, is it possible that DNA vaccines could treat other auto-immune diseases like Crohn's, eczema, and others?"
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DNA Vaccine May Treat Multiple Sclerosis

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  • by charleylc (928180) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @12:51AM (#20233495)
    There's always the possibility that it *could* work for other auto-immune diseases.
    It's kind of mute point, though, to ask such a hypothetical question when the original story is about a new therapeutic DNA vaccine that only produces "beneficial changes" with "periods of remission".
    While this is a huge step forward, it is far from being introduced into the mainstream medical community for mass use. TFA states that it is in the early stages of being studied.
    Although the article does say that it's possible that it could be developed for other auto-immune diseases, I think it's a little preemptive to start asking such hypothetical questions when the target disease for which the drug is being developed isn't even out of the test stage.
    • by dberstein (648161) <<daniel> <at> <basegeo.com>> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:14AM (#20233575) Homepage Journal
      I suffer from MS; the last I heard of a vaccine was last year: they shut the study after a couple of patients died.

      This is are very interesting and promising news for me. Perhaps in a couple of years I won't need my daily anti-fatigue pills, weekly interferon beta 1a shots, and those occasional hospital corticoid shock treatments. Probably I'll never recover for the disabilities I've already got, but at least I won't develop any further because of MS!
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        There is some indication that parasites might help you as well.

        Basically the theory, which originated from the observation that autoimmune diseases were vastly more prevalent in the developed world, goes that there has been a natural selection for parasites that manage to downregulate the immune system (so as to stop it from attacking them). This made a corresponding natural selection for more aggressive human immune systems. Basically you had somewhat of a downregulation aggression race which was pretty
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dmpyron (1069290)
        I have a friend with MS. She goes in once every 4 weeks for an infusion of Tysabri. It's supposed to be the next miracle. It's prevented the formation of new lesions in over 90% of the test subjects. The previous med was beta interferon, IIRC.

        Tysabri was pulled from the market in 2004 after two of the test subjects suffered from some sort of disorder that "turned their brains to mush" (Sarah's words). A further trial had no adverse results. She's had no new lesions and is currently asymptomatic.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gold (10420)
        You and others suffering from MS, other autoimmune disorders, or even cancer may wish to research low-dose Naltrexone treatment: http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/index.htm [lowdosenaltrexone.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_dose_naltrexone [wikipedia.org].
      • You need to watch the 1coyote's progress [marshallprotocol.com] using the Marshall Protocol against the MP. Dr Marshall has identified the mechanism that various bugs use to defeat the immune system, and also how to stop that. It worked for my sarcoid, and for a number of other auto-immune diseases (diabetes, lupus, etc.). There have been other MP/MS patients, but they don't tend to update their progress on the web site.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tfoss (203340)

      It's kind of mute point
      *putting on grammar/diction nazi hat*
      No, it's a moot point [wsu.edu].
      -Ted
    • Having MS I follow the research news (see National MS Society website to find listings). The good news is that there are many "promising" treatments, including this one. However the press release descibes the result of a "Phase I" study, which by definition is an experiment to determine the _safety_ of a new treatment, not its efficacy. Most candidate treatments that do OK in their Phase I study, fail in their Phase II and Phase III studies. Only 3(4) drugs have run the gauntlet and are in use for non-e
    • I come from a family of research scientists personally afflicted with 5 cancers and 4 autoimmune diseases, and I would like to say that "Possibilities" are what keep us on our technical toes, help us "connect the discovery dots" and give hope to patients and those that love them. Our team is currently working on graph theory network maps (similar to those you might find in "WIRED" showing all the servers communicating over the web) that link all known drugs, diseases, biological agents and successful clinic
      • Ok, try this in your model. This chart is from a presentation by Dr Trevor Marshall, Phd to the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne. (reference here)

        Phase 2 Cohort/Recover Statistics
        Phase 2, open label, observational community-based study

        (see page 5 of this pdf [carouselcharts.com])

        7 of 8 Rheumatoid Arthritis
        20 of 25 Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
        4 of 5 Osteo-Arthritis
        40 of 77 CFS/CFIDS/ME
        9 of 15 Cardiac Arrythmia
        57 of 92 Sarcoidosis
        3 of 5 Diabetes
        12 of 18 Uveitis
        20 of 34 FMS
        8 of 10 IBS

        Here you ha

  • by lordvalrole (886029) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:02AM (#20233533)
    My mother has MS and I know others as well that have it. It is such a horrible disease. I hope this research continues and is a viable option and soon. Nothing is worse than seeing a parent or loved one just lose their abilities over a few years.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by NoobixCube (1133473)
      My mother has MS as well, and there's only so much Betaferon can do to slow the pace. Just five years ago she was only a little night-blind, as many healthy people are. In that time she's lost her sight totally twice, and now she's losing all colour vision, and has no peripheral vision. And that's the least of the problems MS is causing her.
  • MS anecdonte (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ookabooka (731013) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:47AM (#20233657)
    First off, IANAD, though both my mother and aunt are. My aunt has fairly severe MS, she can't walk, lost some dexterity in her left arm, etc. What is interesting is that my mother is an identical twin, and doesn't suffer from MS at all. They did some experimental treatments utilizing this unique situation, one of which was some sort of combination of Chemo therapy and a bone marrow transplant. Does this vaccine simple get rid of some "risk factors" in the DNA? Obviously I'd find it hard to believe that there is a direct relationship between DNA and MS. . .
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      Why couldn't it be genetic? by your logic all identical twins would die of the exact same things. environment can be the trigger for many illnesses.
      • by ookabooka (731013)
        Well in that case the genetic factor are risk-factors and not definitive. There are many genetic diseases where you WILL develop symptoms if your DNA is a certain way. I'm saying I don't think MS has such a direct link to DNA based on my anecdotal evidence. That is why I'm questioning exactly what this "DNA vaccine" is doing.
      • Generally people mean things like cystic fibrosis as a genetic disease, being something that's caused by specific genes. So if one twin has cystic fibrosis, the identical twin will definitely have it. So MS is not a genetic disease

        What you're describing are genetic risk factors, which do seem quite common for some diseases too.

    • by backslashdot (95548) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @02:25AM (#20233783)
      Multiple sclerosis is when your immune system attacks a nerve's covering called myelin. What the vaccine does is it gets the immune system to stop targetting the myelin by causing a reduction in the T-cells that attack it. If it works as they say, and have demonstrated, it only reduces the number of T-cells that target the myelin protein, not other stuff.
      • by ookabooka (731013)
        Yeah that makes sense. Thats probably why they nuked my aunt's bone marrow and replaced it with my mothers. If I recall correctly it did stop it for a while but ended up being more of a stopgap than a viable treatment. I remember my mother telling me something like if they did that on a normal person the replacement marrow could have aggravated the auto-immune bit more but since they were identical twins there was no fear of rejection.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Thyrteen (1084963)
        For those who don't know, myelin is a coating that coats the axon of a nerve, promoting signal propogation to the dendrites of the next nerve. Lack of this coating is also known to lead to things such as high impulsivity (This myelin coating does not entire form until at least mid-twenties, and is at least partly responsible for the way we act as kids / teenagers).
        • by Kennita (1140693)
          An axon without its myelin sheath conducts signals much more slowly (IIRC, about 10% the speed) of one with it, with the result that (for example) reaction time is slowed significantly. Most kids/teenagers have quite quick reaction times, IIUC. I think the impulsiveness has some other explanation.
      • by Veetox (931340)
        Furthermore, your stem cells actually recombine DNA well after conception to form a completely unique "ID tag" and set of antibody "master codes" - it's sort of like recompiling your OS or customizing your distro. So, it follows that everyone, even identical twins, has a completely different immune system, and that is why one twin could get MS and the other couldn't, but have the same basic genetic structure.
    • "DNA vaccine" (Score:5, Informative)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @03:04AM (#20233913) Homepage Journal
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_vaccination [wikipedia.org]

      DNA is the active ingredient of the vaccine, if they mean what people usually mean by "DNA vaccine".

      To vaccinate against a pathogen, you'd take some gene from it that codes for a surface protein, inject that DNA into muscle cells, let them express it and produce the protein, and the immune system would learn to react.

      Which leaves plenty of confusion, since the goal of MS therapy would be to turn off the immune response to myelin, not to create an immune response.

      This isn't about gene therapy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "What is interesting is that my mother is an identical twin, and doesn't suffer from MS at all."

      It is thought that there are triggers for this. I had a friend that made it to 35 before MS started to take place...ended up getting mono and it was only after that that she start to see problems. There are doctors that say the epstein-barr virus is one of the MAJOR triggers for this disease.

      For me, I have another auto-immune disease. Similar in reaction in the immune response, but attacking different parts...
    • Re:MS anecdonte (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0123456789 (467085) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:02AM (#20235281)
      I remember a radio programme about identical twins a while ago. One of the things that fascinated me was that although identical twins have identical DNA, their active genes are not identical. Over time, the genes that are active vary between the two twins, as shown by comparing the gene sequences of pairs of identical twins at different ages. The variation was called something like 'Epygenetic modification'. Hopefully someone who knows more about this can comment?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The term you are looking for is "epigenetics".

        It generally refers to gene regulation via mechanisms beyond DNA sequence. A good example of this is what is called "x chromosome silencing" in all women. While women have two equivalent X chromosomes, one is "permanently silenced" during very early development. This ensures that all of the woman's cells will read X chromosome genes from the same chromosome. No pattern for this has been demonstrated, to the best of my knowledge (as far as favoring paternal
    • DNA acquires sporadic mutations. In simple terms, the are the mutations which were not there in beginning but due to defective DNA replication error correction, gets into the DNA) as we age. For e.g., Retinoblastoma is a genetic disease, but 95% of it is sporadic.
      MS is a disease where the protective covering of neuron's conduction channel (axon) called myelin is lost. This in some cases is attributed to the loss of myelin basic protein. Here the researcher has reintroduced the gene for this protein and succ
    • system gets screwed up, either through an inheritable pre-disposition to environmental triggers or through the action of those environment triggers.

      I am a not a doctor but I DO have MS.

      MS may be a syndrome for a whole bunch of DNA/RAN transcription errors which can either be ignored because the triggers never occur or which can really fuck up your life by transforming what would normally just be a sneeze (an allergic reaction) into a life-threatening episode.

      I never get the flu, I get episodes of MS instead
    • by sandarB (922736)
      When I was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, I was given some statistics. There is ~ 1/1000 chance of any person having MS. If one identical twin has MS, there is a 50% chance the other twin will have it. It is not 100% genetic, but is strongly so.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Good grief, why don't they just get on with it and call it gene therapy. All this 'therapeutic DNA vaccine' is it because you think people will be scared by something genetic?

    ZOMG! zombie mutant viruses NO WAY!
  • I surely hope that this vaccine is proven safe, and is available in the USA VERY SOON!!!

    I have a close relative with MS and know several others..

  • I'd take a cure for eczema any day, I think people don't appreciate the kind of pain n eczema sufferers go through on a daily basis, just showering each morning is agony, and they still expect you to get into work all bright and cheery! Last I read, 1 in 4 people suffer from eczema with varying theories on its cause ranging from poor regulation of body temperature to diet, to genetics. It's all horse, frankly it showed me from an early age how weak our medicine arsenal is when I am explained on every visi
  • Remember, it's not lupus.

    http://itsnotlup.us/ [itsnotlup.us]
  • since i was 25 i got crohn disease, i had acne since i was 15, and after 10 years i was full of that stupid disease so i took this peace of crap - http://www.drugs.com/accutane.html [drugs.com] - and as a present i got crohn and my acne didn't disappear :( i'm living with those two for 11 years and believe me, it's not easy... i'm really happy... http://www.crohns.org/treatment/vaccine.htm [crohns.org] i hope it will help others too...
  • The article reports the findings from 30 patients - meaning that the trial was testing only whether the therapy was safe. The authors' note that most patients did not progress (to develop worse disease) is only parenthetical, though the information can be used to estimate how many patients will have to be tested to determine efficacy. Frankly, I don't see a solid rational for a therapeutic mechanism, but if it works, great, and we'll learn something about MS and immunology in figuring out how it works.

    Ther
  • This is very good news if it really works out. There have been many treatments claiming the Holy Grail before, but did nothing much except for the side effects. MS is arguably one of the worst illnesses around. My older brother suffered from it from the age of 19 until he died at the age of 32. The illness itself might not be the worst, but rather the knowledge that it will never get better is what is so hard. My brother graduated tax law with honors, but he had to stop working after a year because of his d
  • As someone suffering from MS, this is great news. Currently there are few options to treat the disease, and none are guaranteed to work. If they do work, its marginal at best. :( Currently, I take a weekly injection of interferon to try to slow down disease progression, but it can only slow the disease down at most 30-40%. Hopefully in my lifetime the disease progression can be stopped dead in its tracks. This is a good start...
    • by 3waygeek (58990)
      My mom has had MS for about 15 years now -- for the last 10 or so years, she's been taking daily injections of Copaxone, which seems to have stopped the disease in its tracks. Fortunately, dad has good insurance -- the Copaxone runs about $2000 per month.
    • by Kennita (1140693)
      Mitoxantrone (trade name: Novantrone) is a relatively new treatment that can indeed stop MS in its tracks, and sometimes even (as in my case) back it off somewhat, though it's not a cure. For the clinical trial that shows a statistical reduction in disability, see novantrone.com -- under the Multiple Sclerosis heading, click the Professionals button, then look at the Prescribing Information (PDF).
  • Wouldn't a "DNA vaccine" be something that keeps you from getting DNA? Like the way the Polio vaccine keeps you from getting Polio?
  • The researchers say if it all goes well, that it's possible that antigen-specific DNA vaccines could one day be developed for treatment of related diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. My mother has rheumatoid arthritis, and while it's not as bad as MS, it's certainly had its toll on her. DNA vaccines seem to be very promising, and I hope that the research begins to bring real results.
  • Cool work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @08:15AM (#20235407) Homepage
    I haven't read the details of the study, but here's what's basically going on, from what I can tell so far... MS is a disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin in Schwann cells. Myelin is an "electrical insulator" in the cell membrane of Schwann cells. Schwann cells wrap around the axons of nerve cells in segments and the electrical signal basically jumps across the Schwann cell segments, increasing the speed of conduction. In MS, the body's immune system sees myelin as a foreign invader and attacks it and slowly consumes the myelin, eventually making the nerves non-functional.

    The vaccine is actually a virus. It doesn't say specifically in the article, but I suspect it's an adenovirus because they're pretty good for this kind of thing. The DNA sequence for the Myelin basic protein (MBP) is encoded into the virus. There are actually several variants of MBP and I'm curious if they're introducing just one variant or multiple variants. Anyway, MBP is involved in myelination of nerves. I don't think this part is well understood, but in studies of mice where the gene for myelin basic protein has been removed (mice with a certain gene or genes removed are called knockout mice), they develop diseases similar to MS.

    Anyway, it's cool stuff and this kind of technology is really the future of treatment for a lot of diseases. There's a protein called p53 that's involved in the normal regulation of cell death and when the gene for P53 gets mutated, it can lead to cancer. p53 is implicated in roughly half of all cancers. One possible treatment is to come up with an virus with a normal p53 gene encoded in it and use that to turn the cancer cells back into normal cells that die properly. There are a host of other genetic based diseases where this kind of thing could be useful as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drjzzz (150299)

      I haven't read the details of the study, but here's what's basically going on, from what I can tell so far...
      X SNIP X
      The vaccine is actually a virus.

      Wrong. A poster describing the work is available for download from the company, Bayhill Therapeutics, here [bayhilltherapeutics.com]. The therapeutic is not a virus but rather a relatively simple, circular DNA (plasmid) of about 3,500 nucleotides with a promoter to drive transcription (make mRNA) and a polyadenylation site to stabilize the mRNA. Otherwise, the DNA has just the minimum to grow and select in bacteria (origin of replication and antibiotic resistance gene that is inactive in humans). Once injected into an animal, s

    • by aznop (575515)
      As an MS patient myself, I've done a bit of research on the disease. I disagree with your characterization of what MS is. Schwann cells [wikipedia.org] are part of the peripheral nervous system, where MS is primarily a disease of the central nervous system. Myelin in the central nervous system is provided by oligodendrocytes [wikipedia.org]. I feel that the parent post is inaccurate and misleading.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    GSASoftware wrote:
    > The cause of the disease is not fully understood, but it appears to
    > be auto-immune.

    It is auto-immune; there is no question about that, and there hasn't
    been for a few decades now.

    I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2000; I got my first
    symptoms when I was 19 years old while I was overseas (imagine waking
    up one morning with half your vision gone in one eye). My mother has
    MS too. That there is a genetic factor has always been
    known. Typically, if a close relative has MS, you hav
    • by jesup (8690) *
      You may be referring to the very recent study of a large number of people (thousands) in the UK using "gene chips" to identify common loci of different genetic diseases. MS apparently shares some susceptibility genes/loci with other auto-immune diseases, such as type-1 (juvenile) diabetes and Crohnes disease (sp). See Science News, or MIT Technology Review I think.
      • by drjzzz (150299)
        Here [nih.gov]is a large collaborative study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine (free text with registration).

        The "common gene" hypothesis almost certainly explains disease that "runs in families". The influence of these genetic variants (alleles) tends to be low, so families my have several different susceptibility alleles combining to produce disease. There is another, intriguing hypothesis that may explain the many people with disease who do not have many, or any, susceptibility alleles. Thi
  • I every time someone claims to of found a "cure" for MS I shutter. I know it's far too lucrative for big pharm to lose. When a single monthly box of my injections cost over 2 grand? I mean, let's be honest with ourselves kiddies. I'm not expecting a cure anytime soon and neither should you. This is modern day snake oil because they bank on us being such a hopeless lot. We're given about 50 years, the knowledge that we're just going to get WORSE and then told how much our meds cost. Any glimmer of hope seems
    • I'm sorry to hear that you have become cynical.

      One thing that is "nice" about MS, is that there is a large enough population of affected people that a lot of research is being done. This is compounded by the cross-application of many therapies between MS and Crohn's, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. At least it isn't some obscure disorder that doesn't get any research at all.

      Biogen Idec definitely has a great thing going from a balance sheet perspective, I'll grant you. But they know that if some
    • by sandarB (922736)
      I agree! I think I have been more crippled (in terms of being able to live the life I want, and pursue my goals) by the cost of meds, and the necessity of having group health insurance, than I have been by the actual disease.
  • ...will people have to live in fear of contracting DNA. It is alarming how widespread it is among people today -- it can be a fatal mistake to assume that you do not already have DNA. Seek medical care immediately for treatment of symptoms. I really can't stress this enough: virtually every living thing with DNA will *DIE* within a matter of decades! Please, make sure your children get this vaccine before it's too late for us all.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill

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