Helminth peptides for autoimmune disease therapy
UTS has identified a family of peptides secreted by parasitic worms which have potent anti-inflammatory benefits.
Transcript: A novel treatment for multiple sclerosis
[text] A novel treatment for multiple sclerosis
[researcher talking to camera:] I’m Sheila Donnelly and I work in the School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science at UTS.
My research is trying to find a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. There are currently some treatment strategies for certain subtypes of MS. However, these often aren’t particularly effective. Normally you have to do first line, second line, third line treatments and so on. And there’s a number of side effects that are quite difficult for patients to manage along with those treatments.
I’m taking an unusual approach — I’m looking at parasitic worms for the answer. We came about this by some epidemiological studies by other researchers a number of years ago who found that in populations around the world that had parasitic worms endemically — that is they’re continuously infected with these parasites — they had low levels of autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis.
We’ve isolated a single protein from a particular worm called fasciola hepatica, known as the liver fluke, and we’ve taken it right from the infection down to the whole secretion from the worm and now identified a single peptide that, certainly in mouse models of MS, seems to prevent progression of disease.
And this is quite exciting because we can deliver this protein very early in the disease or later on after the animals have had onset of paralysis, and we can stop the progression of the disease within animals. So now we’re looking to try to translate this towards human trials.
With our data to date, it seems that the parasite protein that we give only needs to be given for a very short course, which would enhance patients’ compliance. And we haven’t found any side effects to date in any of the tests we’ve done, which would indicate it’s a very safe and tolerable treatment.
Now we’re looking for partners who would be interested in collaborating with us to translate this towards phase 1 clinical trials.
[text] Interested in collaborating with us? email@example.com
This research has been funded by
Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, National Multiple Sclerosis Society (USA), National Health and Medical Research Council and MS Research Australia.
Parasite worms have evolved in their human hosts for millions of years and during this time have developed exquisite mechanisms to modulate the human immune response to ensure their own long-term survival.
This immune modulation is primarily mediated by the molecules that are secreted by the parasites as they migrate through their host’s tissue. The efficacy of parasite-derived molecules has been fine-tuned over millennia of co-evolution with humans, suggesting that the pharmacological activity of these peptides has already been optimised over time by nature.
- Data from animal models of disease show that only a short course of peptide treatment is required to produce a protective effect (better than most current strategies which require long term treatments).
- The parasite peptides are not cytotoxic; most current treatment regimes are associated with severe side effects.
- In vitro screening has suggested that the peptides are unlikely to induce any adverse events.
- Treatment of relapsing remitting MS, with the possibility of treatment for progressive secondary MS.
- Treatment of steroid resistant asthma.
- Possibly applicable for other disease conditions that are mediated by chronic inflammation.
Status and IP Position
A patent application for this technology has been filed and UTS is seeking a partner to license this technology or to work with the researchers to develop it further.
If you are interested in working with our researchers to develop any of our technologies, please contact the UTS Commercialisation Team: