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Memory T cells linked to auto-immune disease

Tuesday September 24th, 2019

Memory T cells may play a key role in triggering auto-immune disease, according to the findings of a major genetic analysis.

British researchers found "thousands" of differences in DNA linked to a range of diseases associated with immune system over-activity.

The study, reported in Nature Genetics, sought to unravel the genetic processes behind the development of diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

The latest study, led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, sought to relate genetic activity underlying immune cells to genetic variants implicated in a number of auto-immune diseases.

By adding cytokines, the researchers generated 55 different cell states.

This showed that early activation of memory T cells had the most active DNA in the same regions as the genetic variants.

Researcher Dr Blagoje Soskic said: “Our study is the first in depth analysis of immune cells and cytokine signals in the context of genetic differences linked to immune diseases.

"We found links between the disease variants and early activation of memory T cells, suggesting that problems with regulating this early T cell activation could lead to immune diseases.”

Fellow researcher Dr Gosia Trynka said: “There are thousands of different cell types and states in the body and finding the cause of autoimmune diseases is like finding a needle in a haystack.

"We have identified early activation of memory T cells as being particularly relevant to immune diseases and will now be able to dive deeper into studying how this is regulated, to discover genes and pathways that could be used as drug targets.”

Blagoje Soskic and Eddie Cano-Gamez et al. Chromatin activity at GWAS loci identifies T cell states driving complex immune disease. Nature Genetics 23 September 2019; doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0493-9

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Genetics | Internal Medicine | UK News

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