Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. The nerve damage disrupts the communication between the brain and the body, causing symptoms like vision loss, pain, fatigue, and impaired coordination that worsen over time. A recent DailyMail article discussed a small trial in which the transplantation of immune cells stopped the progression of multiple sclerosis by fighting the Epstein-Barr virus, which has been identified as a possible cause of MS.
The team behind the study employed a new T-cell therapy developed by San Francisco-based Atara Biotherapeutics. They extracted immune cells, known as ATA188, from people who have successfully battled Epstein-Barr, and injected them into patients with MS. Twenty of the original 24 people who received injections saw their condition improve or stabilized after a year according to the expanded disability status scale. After three years, nine patients who received T-cells also saw improvements in brain scans. However, the placebo effect can’t be yet be ruled out, because the virus can remain dormant in the body for long periods of time without an immune response.