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'Masterswitch' discovered in the immune system

Tuesday February 12th, 2019

Scientists have found a 'masterswitch' in the immune system, opening the way for new treatments for a range of immune-related diseases, it was announced last night.

They hope that finding the critical part of the body’s immune system could have major implications for the treatment of some of the most devastating diseases affecting humans, including cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

Professor Graham Lord, from The University of Manchester, led the 10-year study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, that has concluded that the molecular pathway is regulated by microRNA-142.

Professor Lord, who led the research while at Kings College London in collaboration with Professor Richard Jenner at UCL, said: “Autoimmune diseases often target people in the prime of their life, creating a significant socio-economic burden on them. Sometimes, the effect can be devastating, causing terrible hardship and suffering.

“But these findings represent a significant step forward in the understanding of the immune system and we believe many people worldwide may benefit.”

If the activity of Regulatory T cells is too low, it can cause other immune cells to attack body tissues, but if they are too active, it leads to the suppression of immune responses, allowing cancers to evade the immune system.

Being able to control them is a major step forward in our ability to control and harness the immune system, say the scientists.

Professor Richard Jenner from UCL, who led the computational side of the project, said: “We were able to trace the molecular fingerprints of this molecule across other genes to determine how it acted as such a critical regulator.”

Professor Lord, now vice president and dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester, added: “We hope that this new discovery will lead to the development of new ways to treat autoimmunity, infectious diseases and cancer and we are incredibly excited about where this may lead.”

microRNA-142–mediated repression of phosphodiesterase 3B critically regulates peripheral immune tolerance. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 11 February 2019.

Tags: Cancer | Diabetes | Internal Medicine | UK News

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