«We re-educate defence system cells so that they stop the progression of multiple sclerosis»

Irati Zubizarreta and Daniel Benítez


    In Spain, a new case of multiple sclerosis is diagnosed every five hours. Most are women from 20 to 40 years old. Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common chronic neurological diseases and though it can be controlled with treatment, there is no cure. The reason the immune system attacks myelin, the substance that covers neurons and facilitates the transmission of nervous impulses, is unknown. Something similar occurs with neuromyelitis optica, another disorder of the central nervous system, which is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis. In this case, the immune system reacts against cells of the optic nerve and spinal cord.

    Our project on personalised medicine for these two diseases consists in a cell therapy based on dendritic cells, which are a type of white blood cell. We obtain these cells from the patients, manipulate them in the laboratory and re-educate them to perform the functions we want, in this case, specifically inhibit the cells responsible for the inflammation produced by the disease. The cells are then injected into the patients. We have successfully conducted a phase I clinical trial to demonstrate safety, with eight patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and four with neuromyelitis optica, and have already observed biomarkers of tolerance induction. We are now working on a phase II trial to demonstrate clinical efficacy with 45 patients.


    • Irati zubizarreta
      PhD student researcher in the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Barcelona

    • Daniel Benítez
      Researcher in the Immunogenetics of the Autoinflammatory Response Group of the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Hospital Clínic, Barcelona