US scientists have identified a new means of manipulating the immune system in a way that could be used to combat various autoimmune conditions. According to the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) research, a new and distinctive type of immune cell called eTACs could be the key to preventing the body from attacking its own cells and causing the symptoms of diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Since eTACs have a natural dampening effect on immune responses, the team was able to modify them to prevent the destruction of the pancreas in a test mouse affected by diabetes, with results from the study published in the medical journal Immunity.The team is now hoping to develop new ways of exploiting eTACs therapeutically by finding out how to grow them in large quantities outside the body.
Immunologist Dr Mark Anderson, a professor with the UCSF Diabetes Center and the lead researcher on this study, said: “We need to figure out how to grow a lot of these cells, to load them up with whatever molecule it is that we want to induce tolerance to, and then to load them back into a patient.”This could allow doctors to use these therapies in future to shut down any unwanted immune responses within the body.It would prove an ideal solution for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease characterised by immune cells attacking the tissue lining the joints, resulting in swelling, stiffness and pain, and eventual damage to the cartilage and joint itself, in addition to nearby bone. –