A unique approach to the treatment of myasthenia gravis is almost ready for trial in an animal model of the disease at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. David P. Richman, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology, and colleagues have been working for 25 years to develop a safer and more effective treatment than the combination of existing therapies that has improved the lives of many patients at the UC Davis Medical Center's Myasthenia Gravis Clinic.
Immunosuppressive agents loom large in current treatment for the autoimmune form of the disease, in which the immune system sends antibodies to attack acetylcholine receptors on the muscle surface at the neuromuscular junction. With receptors dead or blocked, various voluntary muscles cannot receive input from nerves across the gap and patients may become unable, for example, to focus their eyes or breathe deeply. (In the congenital form of the disease, genetic error obliterates the nerve-muscle interface.) However, because immunosuppressive drugs can eventually cause problems like the development of diabetes or cataracts, new agents are being sought.