Stimulating cells that jump in to protect healthy tissues in MS patients when their immune systems attack could lead to new drug therapies, researcher says.
Researchers investigating how different cells respond when our immune systems mistakenly attack healthy tissues have found a particular cell that jumps in to reduce the friendly fire.
The discovery during research on mice with a multiple-sclerosis-like disease suggests that inflammatory and suppressive immune cells can balance each other out.
Stimulating the protective cells, called CD8 T cells, could lead to new therapies for autoimmune diseases, said Mark Davis, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and senior author of a study published Aug. 7 in Nature.
“We absolutely think that something like this is happening in human autoimmune diseases. It represents a mechanism that nobody’s really appreciated. There’s this whole subset of CD8 T cells that has a suppressive function,” said Davis, who holds the Burt and Marion Avery Family Professorship.
“If we could mobilize those cells to function more effectively in patients with autoimmunity, then we’d have a novel treatment for diseases like multiple sclerosis.”
For the study, researchers tracked immune cells in the blood of mice with a disease akin to multiple sclerosis and discovered a rise in CD8 T cells, typically known for killing infected or cancerous cells.
To their surprise, injecting mice with peptides that activated these CD8 T cells reduced disease severity and killed disease-causing immune cells.
Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and celiac disease affect 23.5 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health.