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New ‘inverse vaccine’ could wipe out autoimmune diseases, but more research is needed

The study authors tested the inverse vaccine in an animal model of multiple sclerosis, a condition in which the immune system attacks nerve cells, as pictured above. The antibodies (orange) are binding to the nerve cell (blue) to call immune cells to the site. (Image credit: KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images)

Scientists have created a new type of vaccine that instead of activating the immune system, selectively suppresses it. The so-called inverse vaccine, which has only been tested in mice so far, could one day be used to treat autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body, the researchers say. 

The vaccine was given to mice with a condition similar to multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which myelin sheaths, or the insulating coats around nerves in the brain and spinal cord, are systematically destroyed. The treatment reversed symptoms of the disease and restored the function of nerve cells. The findings were described in a study published Sept. 7 in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. 

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