Breakthrough treatment discovered for autoimmune diseases

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Our immune system typically fights off anything harmful entering the body in order to preserve our health. However, it can sometimes confuse proteins which help save the body for viruses and attack them. This is the case for autoimmune conditions such as hemophilia A and Pompe disease, where the immune system rejects the protein doctors give to help save the body. Now, a recent study has found a new treatment to better prepare the immune system for these added proteins.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo paired Lyso-PS, an acid that helps the body fight foreign substances, with proteins and enzymes. This “reverse-vaccination” teaches the body to ignore certain foreign substances. The treatment can hopefully help to fight a plethora of different autoimmune diseases, including allergies.

“The safety and effectiveness of several life-saving therapeutic drugs are compromised by anti-drug antibodies. Once antibodies develop, clinical options available for patients become expensive and, in several cases, ineffective,” explains Balu-Iyer, the study’s lead investigator and professor at the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in a university release.

A cheaper way of resetting the immune system

An immune system fighting Pompe disease often generates antibodies to suppress the enzyme GAA, necessary for breaking down sugar into energy. Current treatments that suppress the immune system to allow an injection of GAA enzymes are prone to secondary infection. Those fighting hemophilia A lack Factor VIII, a protein that helps with blood clotting. The body confuses Factor VIII protein as a threat, producing antibodies to kill it. Current treatments can also run patients over $700,000 per year.

“Instead of attempting to reverse the anti-drug antibodies, which is highly challenging, clinical treatments that prevent antibody development may be a more effective strategy. Our approach is based on the rationale that pre-exposure of a protein in the presence of Lyso-PS teaches the immune system not to mount a response,” adds Nhan Hanh, first author of the study.

In tests on animals, Lyso-PS greatly reduced antibody production in both Pompe and Hemophilia A. Doctors are capable of giving this new treatment to patients both orally and intravenously, allowing for easier and more widespread use.

The researchers hope to use their breakthrough to better treat autoimmune disorders at a more effective and inexpensive rate. During the coronavirus pandemic, the issue of autoimmune reactions has become a growing concern. Patients experiencing the so-called “cytokine storm” develop severe inflammation as the immune system responds to COVID-19.

This study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.