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New hope for vaccine to fight rheumatoid arthritis, other autoimmune diseases

HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, N.Y., October 28, 2002 -- Promising animal test results that could lead to a vaccine to fight rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases were announced by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The vaccine reversed an arthritic-like disease in rats by mobilizing part of the immune system to protect joints under attack by other immune cells. The work was reported in two related papers in the September Journal of Immunology .

Autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues, are among the most widespread of serious chronic diseases. In arthritis, immune cells attack the joints, while in MS, they attack the myelin sheaths of nerve cells.

Current treatments involve either steroids, which fight inflammation caused by the immune system attacks, or immuno-suppressant drugs, which depress immune system function generally. Both these approaches create serious side effects and can only slow, but not stop, the progress of the diseases. They are also effective mostly at very early stages of each disease.

The new approach, in contrast, tries to rally one part of the immune system to fight the part that is attacking the body's tissues. "We know that, in autoimmune diseases, immune cells use chemical markers, called cytokines and chemokines, to induce inflammation that destroys organs," explains Dr. Nathan Karin of the Technion's Department of Immunology and the research team leader. "These proteins also attract white blood cells that, in the case of arthritis, attack joint tissues, and in the case of MS, attack brain components. Our method helps the immune system itself interfere with this process."

In untreated arthritis, part of the immune system detects one of the chemical markers, called IP-10, recognizes that it is wrongly labeling the body's own cells for attack, and destroys it. But while these naturally produced antibodies can slow,
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Contact: Martha Molnar
martha@ats.org
212-307-2580
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
28-Oct-2002


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