Researchers Halt Autoimmune Disease Myasthenia Gravis in Mice
Working with mice, Johns Hopkins researchers say they have developed a gene-based therapy to stop the rodent equivalent of the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis by specifically targeting the destructive immune response the disorder triggers in the body.
The technique, the result of more than 10 years of work, holds promise for a highly specific therapy for the progressively debilitating muscle-weakening human disorder, one that avoids the need for long-term, systemic immunosuppressant drugs that control the disease but may create unwanted side effects.
The research, if replicated in humans, could be a big leap in treating not only myasthenia gravis, but also other autoimmune disorders, the researchers say.
“To treat autoimmune diseases, we normally give drugs that suppress not only the specific antibodies and cells we want to inhibit, but that also broadly interfere with other functions of the immune system,” says Daniel B. Drachman, M.D., a professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published this month in the Journal of Neuroimmunology. “Our goal was to suppress only the abnormal response, without damaging the remainder of the immune system, and that’s what we did in these mice.”