An immune ‘fingerprint’ reveals path for better treatment of autoimmune diseases
Most autoimmune diseases are easy to diagnose but hard to treat. A paper published in Science proposes using your unique immune cell fingerprint to rapidly identify which treatments will work for your autoimmune disease.
‘We analysed the genomic profile of over one million cells from 1,000 people to identify a fingerprint linking genetic markers to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease,’ says Professor Joseph Powell, joint lead author at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. ‘We were able to do this using single cell sequencing, a new technology that allows us to detect subtle changes in individual cells,’ he says.
Switching off T cells before they begin to damage the nervous system is the basis of an Australian therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), which is expected to begin clinical trials by the end of 2017.
Developed by researchers at Victoria University in western Melbourne and the University of Patras in Greece, it brings together peptides, or protein fragments, with a biochemical delivery system already shown to be effective in cancer vaccine clinical trials. Continue reading Turning off toxic T cells in MS clinical trial→
More than 1.2 million Australians have an autoimmune disease. But any two people may experience it very differently, even if their disease has the same name.
Unlike infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases are not passed from person to person. They are our bodies fighting themselves, making every person’s disease unique.
“A lot of clinical trials fail as they treat all patients with a certain ‘disease’ as one big group,” says Professor Carola Vinuesa, from the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Personalised Immunology at The Australian National University.
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The secrets of a molecular assassin could lead to more effective treatments for cancer and viral diseases, better therapy for autoimmune conditions, and a deeper understanding of the body’s defences enabling the development of more tightly focused immunosuppressive drugs.
These are just some of the wide-ranging possibilities arising from research which has revealed the structure and function of the protein perforin, a front-line weapon in the body’s fight against rogue cells.
A pivotal role was played by 2006 Science Minister’s Life Scientist of the Year, molecular biologist Prof James Whisstock and his research team at Monash University. It was research fellow Dr Ruby Law who finally worked out how to grow crystals of perforin. And the team was then able to collaborate with Dr Tom Caradoc-Davies of the micro-crystallography beamline at the nearby Australian Synchrotron to reveal its complete molecular structure. Continue reading How a molecular assassin operates→
Cells involved in the first line of our immune defence have been located where they never have been found before—a discovery that could provide insight into diseases like psoriasis and other auto-immune conditions of the skin.
While researchers have known about these cells, called gamma delta T cells in the epidermis or top layer of skin for more than 20 years, this is the first time their presence has been detected in the next layer of skin down, the dermis.
Wolfgang Weninger, who led the study at Sydney’s Centenary Institute, says that gamma delta T cells are of particular interest because they produce a protein thought to be the ‘first responder’ when intruders are detected by the immune system.