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HAVE TESTS RESULTED IN A WAY TO TREAT MS?

SHARE HAVE TESTS RESULTED IN A WAY TO TREAT MS?

Scientists have successfully vaccinated laboratory rats against a disease like multiple sclerosis, suggesting the new technique may prevent or treat similar diseases in humans, it was reported this week.

Much more testing is needed before researchers know whether the approach could work in humans, but they said it may provide an effective treatment for a variety of untreatable diseases in which the immune system goes awry."If it pans out it's a whole new way of dealing with autoimmunity," said Arthur Vandenbark of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Ore. "You can just turn off a part of the immune system and leave the rest intact."

Dr. Charles Janeway of Yale University School of Medicine said the approach had potential but cautioned there were many questions to answer before researchers know whether it will work.

"It's really too early to have any sense whether this will be generalizable or not," said Janeway, who wrote an editorial accompanying the report published in the British journal Nature.

Stephen Reingold of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in New York also was cautious.

"It's a very interesting finding. It's a brand new kind of technological development. The question whether or not it's relevant to multiple sclerosis. That's going to take a while to sort out," he said.

Vandenbark and his colleagues said they developed an experimental vaccine that apparently tricked the immune systems of rats into protecting them from a disease similar to multiple sclerosis called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis or EAE.

EAE is considered a model for multiple sclerosis, which is believed to be one of a class of disorders called autoimmune diseases because they are caused by the immune system malfunctioning and wrongly attacking part of the body.

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system is believed to attack the coating around nerves, causing loss of muscle control. About 250,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis and about 8,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disease, affects more than 2 million Americans.