I love potentially significant findings or inventions in science that no one predicted. My favorite is Edison’s device to record audio. As far as I can tell, no one at that time predicted that device unlike say powered human flight or traveling to the moon which were predicted years before they happened.
This is pretty much what happened to scientists at the…deep breath…Jewish General Hospital Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and McGill University in Montreal. Using an unanticipated discovery, they were able to completely reverse Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in mice.
MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body behaves like it is allergic to itself. With MS, the insulating sheath or myelin covering your nerves is attacked which then inhibits communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Many people are mildly affected but a lot of people are totally debilitated by this; they can’t write, speak, or even walk. Estimates of those afflicted in the US range from 250 ,000 to 350,000.
Dr. Jacques Galipeau, is a world-renowned expert on cell regeneration and was the lead for the team that made this discovery.
He and his colleagues named this new treatment GIFT15. This isn’t a chemical pharmaceutical which is what is usually used to suppress immunity. This is a personalized or tailored form of cellular therapy which uses the patients own cells.
GIFT15 is made of two lab fused proteins called GSM-CSF and interleukin-15. Each of these on their own actually stimulate the immune systems. When you fuse them together, they do the exact opposite. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.
This new molecule doesn’t work by itself though. It acts on B-cells which are the white blood cells that primarily create antibodies.
Galipeau describes it this way:
“GIFT15 can take your normal, run-of-the-mill B-cells and convert them — in a Superman or Jekyll -Hyde sort of way — into these super-powerful B-regulatory cells, We can do that in a petri dish. We took normal B-cells from mice, and sprinkled GIFT15 on them, which led to this Jekyll and Hyde effect.And when we gave them back intravenously to mice ill with multiple sclerosis, the disease went away.”
So far this works well in mice with a form of MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. This gave me pause when I read that. Perhaps this rodent analogue to MS is sufficiently different from human MS to make GIFT15 totally ineffective. Further research however assured me that experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis has been an incredible tool for learning about the MS.
If this translates well for people, and we know that still is a big if, right?… then the procedure could be very simple.
“It’s easy to collect B-cells from a patient, It’s just like donating blood. We purify them in the lab, treat them with GIFT15 in a petri dish, and give them back to the patient. That’s what we did in mice, and that’s what we believe we could do in people. It would be very easy to take the next step, it’s just a question of finding the financial resources and partnerships to make this a reality.”
If this goes as planned, this could also be effective against other autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease, lupus, even some types of arthritis. Imagine no more arthritis? Another obvious application could be immunity control for organ transplants patients.
Tailored cell therapy seems to have incredible potential for the future of personal medicine. Hopefully GIFT15 will work in humans and help us explore the ultimate potential of this new type of therapy and maybe even find other things that no one is predicting.