Breakthrough in rheumatoid arthritis research
One of the most widely used herbal supplements for improving memory and cognition has no impact on the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, according to new results from a $30 million, multi-center study. The Ginkgo biloba for the Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study was the largest clinical trial ever to evaluate the effects of
Full Post: Ginkgo biloba does nothing for dementia, Alzheimer’s
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, inflammatory type of arthritis that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself.
A new paper, published in this week’s issue of PLoS Biology, reports a breakthrough in the understanding of how autoimmune responses can be controlled, offering a promising new strategy for therapy development for rheumatoid arthritis.
Normally, immune cells develop to recognise foreign material - antigens; including bacteria - so that they can activate a response against them. Immune cells that would respond to ’self’ and therefore attack the body’s own cells are usually destroyed during development. If any persist, they are held in check by special regulatory cells that provide a sort of autoimmune checkpoint. A key player in these regulatory cells is a molecule called Foxp3. People who lack or have mutated versions of the Foxp3 gene lack or have dysfunctional immune regulation, which causes dramatic autoimmune disease.
Scientists at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, and funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign, have genetically engineered a drug-inducible form of Foxp3. Using this, scientists can ’switch’ developing immune cells into regulatory cells that are then capable of suppressing the immune response.
Dr. Alexander Betz, Group Leader at the MRC laboratory, explains: “We have generated a modified form of Foxp3 which can be introduced into immune cells using genetic engineering techniques and then activated by a simple injection. When administered to and activated in animal models of arthritis, the modified cells inhibit or even reverse the disease process.”
Further work is now aimed at elucidating the detailed molecular mechanisms involved in Foxp3 function, and transferring the experimental approach to human cells.
“First, we will develop a human Foxp3 factor and then assess its function in human arthritis models,” said Dr Betz. “To be viable as a therapeutic option, the regulatory cells must fulfill certain criteria; they must be tissue matched to the patient for compatibility; they must only block the targeted disease and not the whole body immune response; and they have to home correctly to their target tissue. Establishing these criteria will be the key focus of our research.
“If Foxp3 functions as a key developmental switch in human immune cells, there is potential for a new avenue of therapy development that could transform arthritis treatment is substantial,” he added.
A study published by Elsevier this month in Clinical Immunology, the official journal of the Clinical Immunology Society (CIS), describes a new method that facilitates the induction of a specific type of immune suppressive cells, called ‘regulatory T cells’ for therapeutic use. These immune suppressive cells show great potential for the treatment of autoimmune diseases
Full Post: New method improves immunotherapy
Researchers led by Drs. Lillian Maggio-Price and Brian Iritani at The University of Washington found that mice that lack the immune inhibitory molecule Smad3 are acutely sensitive to both bacterially-induced inflammation and cancer. They report these findings in the January 2009 issue of The American Journal of Pathology. Bacteria contribute to the development of certain
Full Post: Inflammation contributes to colon cancer
Invading pathogens provoke a series of molecular heroics that, when successful, muster an army of antibodies to neutralize the threat. Like with any close-quarter combat, however, an aggressive immune response runs the risk of friendly fire accidents. For the last decade, immunologists have intensively studied mechanisms evolved by the immune system to avoid these accidents
Full Post: Research identifies cell receptor as target for anti-inflammatory immune response
A study by New Zealand researchers has questioned the current treatment approaches for rheumatoid arthritis and say they may be too slow in controlling the start of the joint damage the disease causes. The team at the University of Otago Christchurch say their research raises serious questions about the drug Methotrexate which is commonly used
Full Post: Rheumatoid arthritis drugs too slow to stop damage
EpiVax, Inc., a leader in the field of computational immunology, announced today that it has received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to optimize delivery of an HIV vaccine. NIAID will provide EpiVax with $390,000 over two years for the
Full Post: EpiVax receives grant for $390,000 to optimize HIV vaccine delivery