When the mechanisms that prevent the immune system from attacking itself break down, it can result in autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and diabetes.
Now researchers at Columbia University Medical Center claim they have not only found out why people with autoimmune diseases attack their own tissues and organs, but also how to correct the problem.
According to a study just published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation scientists have identified a defect in the T cell regulatory pathway which normally controls autoreactive T cells. The majority of people with Type 1 diabetes who were tested were found to have a defect in CD8+ T cells that impacted their recognition of a common target structure known as HLA-E/Hsp60sp. More importantly, researchers were able to successfully correct the defect in-vitro.
“For decades, autoimmune diseases have been treated by reducing overall immune response. That’s been effective in extending life spans, but has been hard on the quality of life for many of those patients,” said lead researcher Hong Jiang, M.D. Ph.D.
Current therapies for treating autoimmune disease include steroids, which systemically suppress the immune system, resulting in multiple side effects, including weight gain and increased susceptibility to infections. Therapies based on this new research are designed to selectively suppress immune responses to self-antigens without damaging the body’s normal anti-infection and anti-tumor responses.
This research is significant. The Columbia University scientists believe that this greater understanding of the defect could eventually lead to prevention of autoimmune diseases altogether.
SRxA’s Word on Health is keeping everything crossed.