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Ann Neurol. 1991 Jun;29(6):615-22.

Suppression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by oral administration of myelin antigens: IV. Suppression of chronic relapsing disease in the Lewis rat and strain 13 guinea pig.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115.


Oral administration of proteins is a long-recognized method of inducing antigen-specific peripheral immune tolerance. We previously showed that oral administration of myelin basic protein suppresses monophasic experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in the Lewis rat when it is given in association with immunization and prior to disease onset. As a potential therapy for human autoimmune disease, it is crucial to determine whether oral tolerance can ameliorate an ongoing immune response. We therefore asked whether oral administration of myelin antigens, after sensitization and disease expression has occurred, could affect immunological, clinical, or pathological features of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Chronic relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis was induced in the Lewis rat and strain 13 guinea pig by immunization with whole guinea pig cord homogenate, complete Freund's adjuvant, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Following recovery from the first attack, animals were orally given bovine myelin, guinea pig myelin, or guinea pig myelin basic protein three times per week for up to 3 months. Animals receiving myelin products orally had decreased severity and frequency of clinical relapses, decreased delayed-type hypersensitivity responses to myelin antigens, diminished inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS), and decreased areas of CNS demyelination. In the rat, guinea pig myelin basic protein was as effective as guinea pig myelin in ameliorating the disease and also resulted in decreased serum anti-myelin basic protein antibody levels. No exacerbation of disease or worsening of pathological findings occurred in the animals given myelin products. These results demonstrate that oral administration of myelin antigens can suppress chronic relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and have direct relevance to therapy of human demyelinating disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

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