Feng Lin, associate professor in the department of pathology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $390,000 over three years to study a potential new cell-based therapy for myasthenia gravis (MG).
MG is part of a large class of diseases known as autoimmune diseases, in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues.
In MG, the attack occurs at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) — the space where signals pass between muscle and nerve.
Symptoms include weakness in muscles that control the eyes, face, neck and limbs; partial paralysis of eye movements; double vision and droopy eyelids; and weakness and fatigue in the neck and jaws with problems in chewing, swallowing and holding up the head.
In previous work, Lin and colleagues developed a new method for generating a special group of cells that are highly effective at suppressing the immune system.
"Pilot studies in our labs found that this group of cells concurrently inhibited both T and B cell responses that lead to myasthenia gravis," Lin says.
Now Lin is testing the effectiveness of the special cells in treating MG in an animal model of the disease.
"Results from this project could help to develop these cells as a new, effective treatment for myasthenia gravis," Lin says.
Funding for this MDA grant began Aug. 1, 2012.