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Protective Memory Cells Against Autoimmunity Discovered By Scientists

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Protective Memory Cells Against Autoimmunity Discovered By Scientists

A new type of immune system cells were discovered by scientists at University of California, San Francisco. The role of these cells, after they activated in tissues is to help the immune system differentiate between self structures and non-self body structures therefore preventing autoimmunity.

The discovery can be regarded as a starting point for future research regarding a wide range of autoimmune disorders. Autoimmunity is defined as the inability of the immune system to recognize body’s self molecules and structures leading to a mistakenly attack against them. Transplant rejection is another undesirable consequence of the immune system response.

Scientists from University of California, San Francisco presented their results in the November 27 online edition of the journal Nature

The new type of cells that were studied by researchers at the USCF are in fact counterparts of the memory cells that help fight pathogens after the immunization process.

Immunologist Abul Abbas, Michael Rosenblum, MD, PhD and Iris Gratz, PhD conducted a study on a mouse model in order to highlight the exact role of activated T regulatory cell in the immune system memory. The researchers discovered that, the protection of mouse’s skin of the against autoimmunity is determined by only a part of the T regulatory cells.

Is is actually a new way of understanding how the immune response works. Tissues posses their own immunological memory. Subsequent exposure to the same molecule that triggered the autoimmune response may lead to a decreased inflammatory response, according to Abbas.

In the United States alone, about fifty million people are affected by autoimmune disorders and scientists and medical professionals until now, have blamed only lymphocytes as primary cause of disease. For example in multiple sclerosis, myelin sheath is attacked by antibodies produced by lymphocytes. But the UCSF research team findings suggest that in many cases, autoimmunity can be also attributed to an abnormal response of the T regulatory cells.

Activated T Cell

Activated T Cell

Recently, scientists realized that T regulatory cells can not only prevent the onset of autoimmunity but can decrease its harmful effects too. Based on the same idea Abbas, Gratz and Rosenbum were curious regarding the success rate of desensitization shots in patients suffering from allergies. The procedure uses gradually elevated repeated shots with the known allergen in order to achieve desensitization of the patient and relieve allergy symptoms.

A new genetically engineered strain of mice were created by the USCF researchers, in which they could inhibit a certain protein synthesis, in the epithelium – ovalbumin. An autoimmune response was then achieved after the mice were forced to produce an excess amount of ovalbumin. On the other hand , ovalbumin also triggered the activation of T regulatory cells. A better suppression of the autoimmune response was achieved after the multiplication of T regulatory cells which became more potent with this occasion. Afterwards the researchers triggered again an overabundance of ovalbumin production but it led to a much weaker autoimmune response. The result was attributed to the already activated T regulatory cells.

The discovery of activated T regulatory cells (also called long-lived memory cells) can help in the future prevent attacks against specific ‘antigens’ as in the case of type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.