Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an organ-specific autoimmune disease. In high percentage of patients there are autoantibodies to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR) that attack AChR on muscle cells at the neuromuscular junction, resulting in muscle weakness. Experimental Autoimmune Myasthenia Gravis (EAMG) is an experimental model disease for MG. EAMG is induced in several animal species by immunization with acetylcholine receptor (AChR), usually isolated from the electric organ of electric fish, which is a rich source for this antigen. Our lab has been involved for several decades in research of AChR and of EAMG. The availability of an experimental autoimmune disease that mimics in many aspects the human disease, provides an excellent model system for elucidating the immunological nature and origin of MG, for studying various existing treatment modalities and for attempting the development of novel treatment approaches. In this review in honor of Michael Sela and Ruth Arnon, we report first on our early pioneering contributions to research on EAMG. These include the induction of EAMG in several animal species, early attempts for antigen-specific treatment for EAMG, elicitation and characterization of monoclonal antibodies and anti-idiotypic antibodies, measuring humoral and cellular AChR-specific immune responses in MG patient and more. In the second part of the review we discuss more recent studies from our lab towards developing and testing novel treatment approaches for myasthenia. These include antigen-dependent treatments aimed at specifically abrogating the humoral and cellular anti-AChR responses, as well as immunomodulatory approaches that could be used either alone, or in conjunction with antigen-specific treatments, or alternatively, serve as steroid-sparing agents.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by grants from: The Association Francaise Contre les Myopathies (AFM) , The Muscular Dystrophy Association of America (MDA) , The European Commission (FIGHT-MG contract #FP7 HEALTH-2009-242-31 ), The Chief Scientist Office , Israel Ministry of Health , and The Open University of Israel .
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- Myasthenia gravis