"This disease can leave patients weak and on breathing machines, and conventional treatments can be toxic," said Henry Kaminski, M.D., chair of the department of neurology and psychiatry at Saint Louis University and one of the nation's leading experts on myasthenia gravis. "There is a real need for better treatments. This study is a step in that direction."
Myasthenia gravis is a highly debilitating, chronic neuromuscular disorder that affects about 400 to 600 per 1 million people, and roughly 1,100 to 1,700 people in the St. Louis area. Symptoms include weakness in the arms and legs, chronic muscle fatigue, difficulty breathing, difficulty chewing and swallowing, slurred speech, droopy eyelids and blurred or double vision.
While drugs like prednisone, a corticosteroid, can be effective in treating the disorder, they also can carry a host of severe side effects, including pronounced weight gain, osteoporosis, glaucoma and diabetes.
Other treatments, intravenous immunoglobulin and plasmapheresis, which involve blood plasma, are expensive and can have rare but serious side-effects such as infections, heart attacks and stroke.
Doctors believe that myasthenia gravis is caused by an overreaction of the complement system, a component of the immune system that specifically defends against parasites, bacteria and other pathogens. Antibodies block nerve receptors at the neuromuscular junction, the place where nerves connect with muscles, and then activate complement which prevents muscle contraction from occurring, causing weakness.
To impede the complement system's misplaced response, researchers hope a new class of drugs, called complement inhibitors, may stop the body's defense system from attacking itself.
Other researchers discovered that rEV576, a protein found in tick saliva, works as a complement inhibitor, allowing ticks to avoiding setting off an immune response in their human host.
SLU researchers in collaboration with Varleigh Limited tested the protein on two groups of rats with mild and severe models of myasthenia gravis. The health of rats that were given the complement inhibitor rEV576 improved, with reduced weakness and weight loss.
Researchers hope rEV576 could have therapeutic value in human myasthenia gravis. And, because ticks apply themselves to people without causing a reaction, researchers are optimistic that rEV576 will not cause allergic reactions or other negative side effects.
"Complement inhibitors are a completely new class of drugs," said Kaminski. "This one will probably prove to be superior to what we've seen. Since complement is activated in many diseases such as Alzheimer's, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis, our studies may be important for other diseases."
Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.
Carrie Bebermeyer | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Protein > allergic reaction > autoimmune disease > chronic muscle fatigue > corticosteroid > difficulty breathing > difficulty chewing and swallowing > double vision > droopy eyelids > myasthenia gravis > potential myasthenia gravis treatment > prednisone > slurred speech > tick saliva
Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences