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Potential cure for multiple sclerosis to be tested

Kyodo

The National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry has developed a drug that it says might provide a cure to multiple sclerosis.

The center announced Monday that it will start a three-month clinical trial from March on nine patients. If the drug’s efficacy is confirmed, it will move on to a large-scale trial.

“We are hopeful as preliminary studies have produced very good results,” said Takashi Yamamura, head of the immunology department responsible for the drug’s development.

About 2 million people around the world are estimated to suffer from the disease, which causes symptoms such as numbness, motion problems and vision loss. In Japan, there are an estimated 15,000 sufferers, including many young women, and the number is growing.

The autoimmune disease occurs when lymphocyte immune cells misidentify the body’s own cells as foreign. They attack nerve cells, causing inflammation and destroying them.

The drug developed by Yamamura stimulates a type of immune cell that softens the attacks by lymphocytes and creates a protein that suppresses inflammation. In the clinical trial, the drug will be drunk in powder form dissolved in water, according to the center.

Mechanism discovered

KYODO

A joint group of Japanese and U.S. researchers has unlocked the mechanism behind the formation of autoantibodies that attack individuals’ own cells and tissue, according to a new study.

The researchers from academic and research institutes said they hope their findings will help in the diagnosis and development of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints.

The findings, published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate that autoimmune diseases may be caused by a different mechanism than previously known.

Autoimmune diseases have been believed to be caused by abnormal immune responses.

The study showed that autoantibodies are created to target a combination of a specific protein and MHC class-II molecules, which are known to relay the presence of foreign substances to immune cells.