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New Method Devised for Treating Autoimmune Disease

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 14 Jun 2012
Australian researchers have devised a new method that may regulate the body’s natural immune response, providing hope of a straightforward and effective treatment for autoimmune diseases.

The new approach involves increasing good regulating cells in the body, dissimilar to most current research which focuses on stopping “bad” (effector) cells, according to lead researcher Dr. Suzanne Hodgkinson, from University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Faculty of Medicine (Sydney, Australia) and Liverpool Hospital.

The researchers triggered the body’s T-cell front-line defenses by injecting cell-signaling proteins called cytokines, in particular, cytokine interleukin-5 (II-5 cytokine). When T-regulatory cells are cultured in a way to make them specific to a particular protein, they develop receptors for the Il-5 cytokine. The Il-5 cytokine boost allows the body’s immune system to better regulate its response to disease without going into overdrive.

The team cloned II-5 cytokine and injected it into rats with the neurological condition Guillain-Barré syndrome. These rats recovered much faster, and if treated as a preventative, did not fall ill. The method has also shown potential in animals with multiple sclerosis, with kidney disease nephritis and trying to overcome organ transplantation rejection. “One of the nice things about this discovery is that it is one of the few treatments in the autoimmune world and in the transplantation world that works not by attacking the effector cells, but by increasing the good regulating cells. So it works in a very different way from almost every other treatment we've got available,” Dr. Hodgkinson said.

Il-5 injections could be more appetizing than inoculation by parasitic worms--another approach in regulating autoimmune disorders, according to the scientists. International research revealed that swallowing helminths parasites could regulate the immune system and increase T-cell production to fight disorders such as celiac disease and multiple sclerosis. The lack of the worms in guts in the developed world has been cited as a possible cause for the severe rise in autoimmune diseases in Western countries.

“The process we’ve developed may be the same process that the helminths kick off. When you get a helminths infestation, one of the changes in your immune response is an increase in cells called eosinophils and these cells make the cytokine interleukin-5,’ remarked Dr. Hodgkinson. “In this new treatment, it’s a matter of injecting the interleukin-5 and the body does the rest. It’s both safe and effective and we think inducing the immune response by injection may be more attractive to people than swallowing parasitic worms.”

The next phase of the research is to take the treatment to human trials, which could be undertaken within two to five years, Dr. Hodgkinson reported, whose study’s findings have has been published June 3, 2012, in the journal Blood.

Related Links:
University of New South Wales



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