There are an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide who are living with multiple sclerosis, or MS. And while the disease can sometimes be intermittent or manageable to live with, it’s currently incurable, and doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes the condition to progress the way it does.
Millions of research dollars have been poured into finding a cure already, without a definitive solution found yet. But while a cure remains fugitive, one British scientist may be on the verge of finding the answer—and she and her team are making some serious progress with the technology they’ve developed.
Great to see feature on Dr Su Metcalfe @LIFNanoRx in @businessweekly following up her success in achieving the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award last March. The venture is supported by Accelerate Cambridge @CambridgeJBS. @UCamEnterprise @IdeaSpaceSouth @Cambridge_Uni pic.twitter.com/LUPtVfI1mm
— CJBSEntrepreneurship (@CJBS_EC) February 22, 2018
Dr. Su Metcalfe, a senior research associate at Cambridge, has developed a nanotechnology that could completely flip MS treatment on its head. The technology was still raising funding when the news broke, and human trials aren’t expected to begin until around the year 2020, but the date when her miraculous cure could potentially be proven viable is fast approaching—and that’s the kind of news the world can cheer about.
Her technology stems from a discovery she made while working as a surgeon at Cambridge University’s Department of Surgery.
Dr Su Metcalfe, founder of LifNanoRx, a venture supported by Accelerate Cambridge The Entrepreneurship Centre at CJBS,…
“I was looking to see what controls the immune response and stops it auto-attacking us,” she explained, speaking with Britain’s Mirror UK in 2017.
“I discovered a small binary switch, controlled by a LIF, which regulates inside the immune cell itself. LIF is able to control the cell to ensure it doesn’t attack your own body but then releases the attack when needed.
“That LIF, in addition to regulating and protecting us against attack, also plays a major role in keeping the brain and spinal cord healthy. In fact it plays a major role in tissue repair generally, turning on stem cells that are naturally occurring in the body, making it a natural regenerative medicine, but also plays a big part in repairing the brain when it’s been damaged.”
Meet the Cambridge scientist on verge of curing Multiple Sclerosis https://t.co/lhIOm9eQU8
— Cambridgeshire Live (@Cambslive) June 4, 2017
The problem was that the naturally occurring LIF in the body could only survive outside of the cell for about 20 minutes before it broke down. That made it difficult to use the own body’s form of the LIF “switch” to deploy a therapy.
Luckily, Dr. Metcalfe and her colleagues came up with a nano-particle that would be able to act in a similar manner to the body’s own LIF switches. It would naturally break down in the body, but at a much slower rate than the LIF particles themselves would while trying to deploy a therapy, and would work as a vessel to deliver the LIF to the body over time.
Su Metcalfe presenting to The Duke of York, distinguished guests, and other Biotech entrepreneurs at the Pitch@Palace…
“We’re not using any drugs, we’re simply switching on the body’s own systems of self-tolerance and repair. There aren’t any side effects because all we’re doing is tipping the balance,” she said.
“Auto-immunity happens when that balance has gone awry slightly, and we simply reset that. Once you’ve done that, it becomes self-sustaining and you don’t have to keep giving therapy, because the body has its balance back.”
Dr. Metcalfe’s work went viral in 2017, when she won the 2017 Business Woman of the Year from Judge Business School and the 2017 Global Award for NanoMedicine.
And while she’s still in the process of developing the trials—research this big can take years to properly conduct—there’s a chance that when she’s finished, the world will have a fairly side effect-free, effective way of combating MS. That means fewer instances of blindness, fewer individuals suffering from nerve degeneration, and more happy and healthy communities.