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Researchers Develop New Method to Specifically Target Immune Cells that Trigger MS

June 15, 2017

There is a new experimental method that specifically targets unwanted activation of the immune system without the toxicity of current immunoregulatory drugs. It was developed by the researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). A study called “Manipulating DNA damage-response signaling for the treatment of immune-mediated diseases,” published in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Science, discusses how selectively targeting an Achilles heel of activated immune cells offers the potential of treating multiple sclerosis (MS). When immune cells are activated, they divide rapidly, dramatically increasing cellular stress and DNA damage. Under normal conditions, immune cells can overcome this potentially deadly event by repairing DNA and expanding as necessary.

The PPCA, or “p53 potentiation with checkpoint abrogation,” is this new method, taking advantage of this damage-repair balance. It targets two mechanisms that regulate the DNA damage repair balance: activating a protein called p53 and inhibiting proteins involved in cell cycle checkpoints. Targeting these two mechanisms prevents immune cells from pausing the cell division process and repairing their damaged DNA. Researchers tested this method in experimental animal models of MS and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, which is a life-threatening condition characterized by overactive immune cells in the body. They found that inhibiting the repair process during cell division selectively killed cells. However, more studies are still required to confirm whether these findings can be applied to clinical treatments in humans.