Scientists have demonstrated a new strategy for treating autoimmune disease that successfully blocked the development of rheumatoid arthritis in a mouse model. They say it holds promise for improved treatment of arthritis and other autoimmune disorders in people.
Infusing a highly specific type of cell that regulates immune responses into arthritis-prone mice shut down the cascade of inflammation that damages tissues and joints. The method worked best when the infusions of CD8+ Treg cells were given at the same time that the animals were injected with a protein that triggered the arthritis-causing autoimmune reaction. "We found we could almost completely inhibit the disease in this setting."
Even when administered weeks after the disease was initiated, CD8+ Treg infusions combined with low doses of methotrexate - a commonly used drug for rheumatoid arthritis - were able to significantly slow the arthritis process. The new strategy also blocked disease progression when the scientists injected peptide antigens to expand the rodents' own pool of CD8+ Tregs, rather than infusing them from outside. Overall, the results "suggest that [these] strategies represent a promising therapeutic approach to autoimmune disorders."