Immune System Reprogramming Versus Autoimmune Disease

As researchers learn more of the mechanisms of the immune system, they will be able to selectively reprogram its components - and thus cure many of the conditions that result from immune system malfunctions. From EurekAlert!: "immune system components known as regulatory T cells counterbalance the tendency of conventional T cells to become overactive, thus holding inflammation in check. These regulatory T cells exert their influence by communicating with other parts of the immune system. ... an enzyme known as protein kinase C theta is only partly activated in regulatory T cells. When the regulatory cells are most active, in fact, most of the interfering enzyme is physically kept far away from the area important for cell-cell communication. ... researchers began testing inhibitors of this kinase enzyme, including a molecule known as Compound 20 ... the compound boosted the normal activity of regulatory T cells by about five-fold [and] defective regulatory cells from [patients] were revived in tissue cultures with this enzyme inhibitor ... We could get them back to almost a normal level of activity, like what you'd see in a healthy individual. ... When the researchers treated the regulatory T cells with the enzyme inhibitor and then injected them into the mice [with the mouse version of Crohn's disease], their anti-inflammation activity rose so much that they essentially protected the mice from the disease, even though the cells were outnumbered four to one by their pro-inflammatory counterparts."


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