Has Science Conquered Autoimmune Disease?
By James Donahue
The British media reports that researchers at the Weizmann Institute,
in Israel, and Newcastle University, England, have developed vaccines or vaccine-like treatments based on nanotechnology that
they believe may block the onset of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.
Still in its early stages of development, both treatments have
already proved to be successful in animal studies. They to halt the progress
of the disease without causing severe side effects the research teams report in studies published in medical journals.
The Newcastle team, headed by Professor Alan Silman, medical director
of Arthritis Research Campaign, says the vaccine will soon be tested on volunteers now suffering from the diseases.
Using chemicals, steroids and Vitamin D, Silman’s team has
found a way to manipulate a patient’s white blood cells so they suppress the immune system. Autoimmune diseases occur
when the body’s natural immune system mistakes some parts of the body as a pathogen and starts attacking its own cells.
It is not known what triggers this in some humans.
The vaccine works because it appears to reprogram the body’s
immune cells to behave as they should.
Similar techniques have been used successfully to stop the progression
of cancer. This is the first time the concept has been tried in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Trials must be completed to
determine the treatment’s effect on the human body, and if the treatment must be applied to all of the joints in the
The bad news is that the estimated time for this treatment to be
available to the public is at least five years. And the cost may be so high that most people will not be able to afford it,
even if they have insurance that picks up a major part of the expense.
Like all new medical discoveries, this treatment is a complex procedure
that will prove involves removing cells from the patient, genetically altering them, and then injecting them back into the
body. Thus people must go to facilities equipped to offer this treatment.
It will not involve a simple injection of a vaccine manufactured
in bulk that covers all of the needs of patients.
Also the treatment is not expected to be a cure for the illness.
Rather it will stop it from its progression. Thus the earlier the patient receives the treatment, the better the outcome is
expected to be.