Over 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS. If you're unfamiliar with the disease, the immune system attacks the central nervous system so that the brain can't communicate properly with the body. This results in blindness, loss of muscle control, and vertigo. There is no known cause or cure, and drugs are costly.
But that may soon change thanks to Metcalfe's work at Cambridge University, Yale University, and her own company, LIFNanoRx. Metcalfe is working on drug-free, soluble nanoparticle technology that acts like protective vehicles for delivering a LIF. A LIF (Leukaemia Inhibitory Factor) is actually just a blood-borne protein. It helps repair damaged tissue and neurons in the brain and spinal cord, but it also tell the cells to stop attacking the body.
"We can treat auto-immune disease, and we’ve got something to treat MS, which attacks both the brain and the spinal cord," Metcalfe told Cambridge News. "So you have a double whammy that can stop and reverse the auto-immunity, and also repair the damage caused in the brain."
The nanoparticles carry the LIF, and by molecular engineering, the antibodies on the particle help direct it to more specific parts of the brain and body for optimal and targeted repair.
"We’re not using any drugs, we’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair," she said. "There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance. Auto-immunity happens when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that. Once you’ve done that, it becomes self-sustaining and you don’t have to keep giving therapy, because the body has its balance back."
Metcalfe's company has earned two big funding awards and hopes to start clinical trials in 2020. And Metcalfe's work won't end with MS. She said she believes her work with the immune cell can improve the lives of those with psoriasis, diabetes, and one day, dementia.
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