Image showing 10^-9 with nano written underneath. Represents a non-sized drug delivery system.

Hopes for LIF – what’s the evidence?

Reports of a potential new approach to manipulating immune cells have popped up in the news. We look at how close it is to delivering a treatment for MS.

Not focused on MS

Leukemia inhibitory factors (LIFs) have been shown to change the response of the immune system. Dr Su Metcalfe, a retired academic, believes that one particular LIF could be used to turn the attack function of immune cells on and off.

LIFs affect the way cells grow and change. Although many of the news reports talk about MS, the research has not focused on any particular autoimmune condition.

Too early to say

Researchers at Yale University are now working on how to get LIF into immune cells.

They and Dr Metcalfe have formed a company that has patented ‘LIFNano’ – a nano-sized drug delivery system. But it’s too early to say if treating immune cells in this way will be effective.

Could it help people with MS?

It’s important to remember that treatments preventing immune attacks cannot undo damage to nerve cells. Even if they’re good at stopping progression, they can’t reverse permanent disability.

This means they’re not going to be a ’cure’ in the way most of us would understand it.

Dr Metcalfe believes that LIF may have neuroprotective or myelin repair properties, but there is no published evidence for this and MS experts have disputed it.