Researchers develop new treatment for rare form of encephalitis

Scientists have reported success in treating anti-NMDA receptor encepalitis, a rare form of the disease.
By Amy Wallace  |  Jan. 6, 2017 at 3:59 PM
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BERLIN, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Researchers in Germany have made progress in treating a rare form of encephalitis, an inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system.

A team from Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, or DZNE, have reported success in treating anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is a serious autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the brain resulting in neurological and psychiatric problems, such as psychoses, epileptic seizures and movement disorders.

Doctors have trouble treating anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis because of certain anti-NMDA receptor antibody-producing plasma cells that remain inaccessible to current immunotherapies.

A team led by Dr. Franziska Schelbe and Dr. Andreas Meisel from the Department of Neurology and the Neurocure Cluster of Excellence, developed a new treatment regimen that was given to five patients.

Along with standard treatment, patients received bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor used to treat plasmacytoma, a specific type of blood cancer.

Proteasomes play a vital role in the degradation of proteins to regulate cell growth.

Researchers have found that bortezomib treatment produced clinical improvements in patients with severe forms of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. The treatment also showed a decline in the antibodies responsible for the disease.

"Bortezomib is capable of treating the causes of the disease by eliminating plasma cells," Schelbe, author of the study, said in a press release. "This makes it a valuable new treatment option in cases of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis that have so far proven resistant to treatment."

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

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