Manchester, Sept. 8 (Reuters): British scientists are developing vaccines to reprogramme the body’s natural defences against auto-immune diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Neil Williams, of the University of Bristol in southwestern England, told a science conference today that he and his colleagues hope to begin human safety trials of t he vaccine early next year.
Autoimmune disorders, which affect about 5 per cent of the British population, occur when something goes wrong with the immune system and it attacks the body’s own tissue.
“The vaccines we are working on are able to re-educate the immune system to reset the balances and put the controls back in place to stop these diseases from continuing to progress,” Williams said.
The vaccines are based on a protein derived from a bacterium. Williams found that when it is introduced into the body it turns on the immune system controls and stops inflammatory diseases like arthritis and diabetes.
“So far, we know that this works very well in models of these diseases and we will be moving into our first trials in humans in the next six months,” he added at the week-long meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Using a vaccine against autoimmune diseases is not a new concept but until now it has not been very successful.
In a study of a strain of mice that naturally develop diabetes, the vaccine, which is being developed with the backing of British biotech company Hunter-Fleming Ltd, reduced the occurrence of the illness from 80 to 15 per cent.
If trials of the vaccine in humans are successful it would be an entirely new approach to treating inflammatory diseases. Williams anticipates the vaccine will have to be given over a short course of time and may have to be repeated periodically.
Campbell Bunce, of the British biotech firm Xenova Group Plc, also told the meeting about its vaccines which are designed to reduce addiction to nicotine and cocaine by producing antibodies that prevent the compounds from getting into the brain, which is the key to addiction.
A Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables, can relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, scientists said. Although a Mediterranean diet is usually recommended to reduce the risk of heart disease, Dr Lars Skoldstam, of Visby Hospital in Sweden, found it reduced the pain and improved the physical function of people with rheumatoid arthritis.