“Important control mechanism behind autoimmune diseases discovered”

I am sorry but I have been busy and thus late in my updates. Nevertheless I aim at posting everything I’ve read that I deemed relevant and interesting. The following is from an article (dated 05 May 2010 – Medical News Today).

Swedish researchers have discovered a new control mechanism in our immune system. This discovery might have be of great significance for the treatment of serious diseases such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus).

Mikael Karlsson, associate professor at the Department of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Solna states: “now that we’ve started to understand the regulatory mechanisms involved in these autoimmune diseases, we are hopeful that new treatments can be found“.

An important component of our immune defense is a type of cell called a B cell. Normally, the job of these cells is to produce antibodies, which in turn bind to and neutralise invasive microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses. In people with an autoimmune disease, explains Dr Karlsson, these B cells actually have an injurious effect and instead of serving the body, are activated against its own tissues, which they start to break down.

What this research has demonstrated is that NKT cells can regulate how B cells become activated against healthy tissue, and also that a lack of NKT cells results in greater misguided B cell activation… Thus researchers claim they can now actually mechanically link the NKT cell defect in patients to the disease.

The study also shows that the NKT cells directly impede faulty B cell activation, and that they do so early in the misdirected process. The team managed to inhibit the activity of pathogenic B cells by adding NKT cells – a result that may one day lead to new types of treatment.

This simply opens the opportunity for the development of new treatments for MS (and the other diseases mentioned above) specifically targeted at the protective NKT cells.

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