ENP Newswire -
Release date- 03092014 - Scientists have made an important breakthrough in the fight against debilitating autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis by revealing how to stop cells attacking healthy body tissue.
Rather than the body's immune system destroying its own tissue by mistake, researchers at the University of
The study, funded by the
It's hoped this latest insight will lead to the widespread use of antigen-specific immunotherapy as a treatment for many autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, Graves' disease and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
MS alone affects around 100,000 people in the
Scientists were able to selectively target the cells that cause autoimmune disease by dampening down their aggression against the body's own tissues while converting them into cells capable of protecting against disease.
This type of conversion has been previously applied to allergies, known as 'allergic desensitisation', but its application to autoimmune diseases has only been appreciated recently.
Most importantly, their work reveals that effective treatment is achieved by gradually increasing the dose of antigenic fragment injected.
In order to figure out how this type of immunotherapy works, the scientists delved inside the immune cells themselves to see which genes and proteins were turned on or off by the treatment.
They found changes in gene expression that help explain how effective treatment leads to conversion of aggressor into protector cells. The outcome is to reinstate self-tolerance whereby an individual's immune system ignores its own tissues while remaining fully armed to protect against infection.
By specifically targeting the cells at fault, this immunotherapeutic approach avoids the need for the immune suppressive drugs associated with unacceptable side effects such as infections, development of tumours and disruption of natural regulatory mechanisms.
This treatment approach, which could improve the lives of millions of people worldwide, is currently undergoing clinical development through biotechnology company Apitope, a spin-out from the University of
The research was carried out by academics in
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