According to new study, a protein in the eye has prevented and stopped autoimmune eye disease in animal studies. Now, researchers say this could lead to promising treatments for other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.
Scientists from the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston found the factor alpha-MSH can be harnessed and used as a therapeutic drug. The drug can then prevent the onset of and stop the progression of uveitis in mice. Uveitis is a sight-stealing autoimmune disease.
"The results of our study are exciting and significant because they confirm for the first time that this factor can be successful in the treatment of an autoimmune disease, something that we have been suspecting since we first found alpha-MSH in the eye," says Andrew W. Taylor, Ph.D., from Schepens Eye Research Institute and senior author of the study.
Taylor and his colleagues discovered that the alpha-MSH plays a significant role with the T cells. In autoimmune diseases, the conventional T cells perceive a part of the body as foreign and attack it. When the MSH protein was injected into the mice, the T cells changed and did not attack the body.
"This technique was extremely effective in the mouse model, and we believe that it has great potential to work in other autoimmune diseases by changing the immune response responsible for multiple sclerosis or for the onset of type 1 diabetes," says Taylor. Based on this study, the Schepens Eye Research Institute team was awarded a $330,000 grant by the Wadsworth Foundation to explore new therapies for multiple sclerosis.