MCG researcher tests exciting new treatment for autoimmune diseases

By: Laurie Ott
By: Laurie Ott

August 15, 2006

Your immune system is designed to help you fight off everything from serious infections to the common cold...but sometimes the immune system attacks itself, and that can be serious. Autoimmune diseases with serious complications include lupus and MS.

Right now there's no cure, but there could be hope for those with those types of disease.

A breakthrough at MCG could mean stopping autoimmune diseases in their tracks.

"Type 1 diabetes, MS, arthritis, lupus, it's very difficult to treat, it's like friendly fire," explains Dr. Makio Iwashima of MCG.

Friendly fire--when your body's system designed to keep you healthy attacks you instead.

But now, thanks to Dr. Iwashima's research, there may be a way to defend yourself against it.

He and his team of researchers have found help in a most unlikely place: lab-grade alcohol called butanol, as well as beverage-grade ethanol.

"When we first saw the data two years ago, our jaw dropped."

But it's not drinking the alcohol that helps.

"Drinking alcohol I don't think is the most effective way," Dr. Iwashima says. "It's still being tested."

Instead, Dr. Iwashima found it's adding a few drops of alcohol to regulatory t-cells in a dish and putting them back in the body that keeps immune cells from attacking healthy tissues. The process is working in lab mice now.

"So far, most of the things humans have and mice have are equivalent, so chances are what happened in mice will happen in humans as well," he says.

And even more exciting, this new method could be tested in humans as soon as next year.

This treatment could block the progression of diseases like MS that until now have gone mostly unchecked.

And this could be the kind of treatment that your body would not reject.

Since the process involves taking your own cells out and putting them back in, it may not have nearly the levels of rejection or side effects other drugs or treatments have.


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