Nanotechnology brings promising medical prospects

Could help with multiple sclerosis, allergies

WELLINGTON, Fla. - Each day, it becomes tougher for Howard Chiet to get around his Wellington home.  "I progressed from a cane to a walker, from a walker to a wheelchair," he said. On November 13, 1989, Chiet was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Chiet gave up driving a car twelve years ago. He spends his days now in a wheelchair. 

"Happy where I am, if they can stop where I am right now," he said.  But stopping the progression of his particular case of M.S. is not an option, even as medical researchers with Northwestern University say they have made a breakthrough using something called nanotechnology to slow or even stop the progression of some forms of M.S. in mice.

Multiple sclerosis often attacks and sticks onto a patients immune system, but researchers have found if that coat antigens in nanoparticles, can actually trick the immune system into stopping the attack on the coating around the nerves. 

Some in the medical field are applauding the research, hoping that it can in fact someday be successful in helping people. 

"If they can find other ways to fight multiple sclerosis where they don't have to suppress the immune system and find a way that does it safely, it's a huge breakthrough if it's going to be successful in humans," said Dr. Adam Bromberg, an emergency physician at Wellington Regional Medical Center.

80% of M.S. patients are diagnosed with relapsing remitting form of the disease and may be able to be helped with the use of this nanotechnology.

"They'll never cure me," said Chiet, who is not one of those people. But he still hopes that others living their lives like him can find answers and, in turn, relief.  "If they can give you anything that will slow the progression, I'm for it," he said.

It could be years before this nanotechnology could even be considered for use in humans. But researchers say the nano-particles are made from an easily produced and already FDA approved substance.

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