Is a cure for multiple sclerosis just around the corner?
An expert from the University of Nottingham has given his views on claims that a cure for multiple sclerosis could be within our grasp.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system which affects more than 100,000 people in the UK.
Symptoms usually start in your 20s and 30s and can include fatigue, vision problems or difficulties with walking – although the MS Society says the impact is different for everyone.
A company in Cambridge called LIFNano is trying to cure the condition using a protein in the body known as LIF, or Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor.
This is a blood-borne protein which can repair damaged tissues throughout the body, including damaged neurons in the central nervous system’s brain and spinal cord. The company says this makes LIF highly attractive as a treatment for multiple sclerosis – but that the challenge finding a way to get to protein to damaged tissue in sufficient amounts.
It says it has developed “ground-breaking technology” called LIFNanoRx’s which means that LIF can be now delivered in a controlled and targeted manner for therapy – and is aiming to start clinical trials in 2020.
The company’s website says that, “Until now, it has not been possible to deliver LIF directly into the sites of inflammation and neuronal damage. LIFNanoRx, for the first time, makes such targeted delivery possible.
“By packaging measured amounts of LIF into tiny ‘nano’ particles, molecular engineering ensures that the particles home to sites of need using a unique particle coating of target-specific antibody. LIFNanoRx promises a new generation of treatments for currently untreatable diseases using simple and clean technology.”
Dr Su Metcalfe from the company told our sister paper the Cambridge News: “Nano-medicine is a new era, and big pharma has already entered this space to deliver drugs while trying to avoid the side effects. The quantum leap is to actually go into biologics [treatments derived from living organisms rather than synthetic drugs] and tap into the natural pathways of the body.
“We’re not using any drugs, we’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance.”
She added: “The 2020 date is ambitious, but with the funding we’ve got and the funding we’re hoping to raise, it should be possible.”
However, Dr Martin Garnett, associate professor in drug delivery at the University of Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy, cast doubt about the possible timescales.
He said: “I would take it with a pinch of salt. Realistically, it’s going to take a while to develop this.”It’s very difficult to get nano-particles to the brain. It’s not impossible – there are bits of research showing that parts of the process are possible. But there are clearly a lot of issues. A more realistic timeframe would be five to ten years.”
He did say, though, that biologics were become more and more important.
He said: “We are increasingly looking in modern medicine at biologics – proteins, bits of DNA and so on which are in the body. That’s where a lot of science and medicine is heading.
“The problem is that it’s very difficult to deliver them to the place you want them to get to. Biologics are big molecules and there are barriers to the way they move around the body. Traditional drugs and biologics have very different properties.
“There is clearly literature which suggests that LIF is a very important molecule. But the scientific question – about what you’ve got to deliver to where – is one which I’m not sure is fully understood.”
He added: “This is a company involved in this, and they are always going to be optimistic. They can put it out there to generate excitement, in order to bring the funding in. But I recognise that this is the way things get moving and treatments get developed.”
Biologics are not taken orally, like traditional pills, but can be administered in other ways such as by injection or intravenously.
Source Nottingham Post