At least 20 million Americans live with autoimmune disorders, but there’s still much we don’t know about these conditions. The disorders usually occur when, for some reason, the immune system goes haywire and begins to attack healthy tissue.
In addition to not knowing exactly what causes autoimmune disorders, we still haven’t figured out a way to cure them. Recently, however, researchers studying immune disorders discovered a novel method of triggering the immune system via certain proteins. This discovery could provide scientists with the chance to know more about autoimmune conditions such as lupus and scleroderma.
Investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine and Hospital for Special Surgery found that tiny proteins called chemokines, which are usually tasked with directing leading immune cells to inflamed tissue, can also trigger immune system malfunction. The study, whose findings were reported in the “Journal of Experimental Medicine,” is the latest in the scientists’ efforts to research scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder that results in hardened skin.
According to study author Dr. Frack Barrat, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine, a previous project had shown that patients with scleroderma had high levels of chemokine CXCL4 in their blood. However, researchers didn’t know what role the nanoparticle played in the development of the disease, Barrat explained, and they did not expect it to result in this kind of immune response.
The group’s recent experiments revealed that chemokine CXCL4 as well as other chemokines could trigger the production of an antiviral factor called interferons through previously unknown channels. In some cases, the proteins could also bind with DNA to form nanoparticles with the ability to go over the chemokine receptors and trigger interferon production directly. The researchers believe this could result in chronic immune activation that causes autoimmune disorders such as scleroderma.
Furthermore, the research suggests that different types of DNA-chemokine particles could result in different autoimmune disorders.
Barrat explained that DNA-chemokine particles are usually a first responder when the body is wounded, inducing an inflammatory environment when the skin is cut in preparation for sealing the wound. The inflammation usually dies down when the wound is sufficiently healed. In people with autoimmune diseases, however, the inflammation doesn’t stop and eventually begins to harm the tissue it was supposed to heal.
A previous study by the same researchers that was published earlier this year in “Nature Communications” also demonstrates chemokine CXCL4 inducing an inflammatory response, this time in monocytes. Monocytes are a type of immune cell that tracks and destroys germs and infected cells. Together with the findings from the recent study, these findings could be used to develop autoimmune disorder treatments that don’t interfere with regular immune responses.
A lot can go wrong when the immune system goes haywire and attacks the body, which is why there is some urgency in the work being done by entities such as AREV Life Sciences Global Corp. (CSE: AREV) (OTC: AREVF) to come up with interventions that retrain immune systems so that the malfunctions triggering different autoimmune illnesses can be arrested.
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