In lupus and other autoimmune diseases, antibodies against our own cells and tissues are produced by B cells. The body contains billions of B cells that can make antibodies that target infecting viruses and bacteria, but these antibodies can also include ones that can react with "self" - an immunologist's term for our own bodies. One process that normally prevents these B cells from causing harm is that their activity depends on receiving "help" from T helper cells that also become stimulated when an infection occurs. However, another kind of T cell, called a regulatory T cell, may be important in preventing T helper cells from activating B cells with the potential to generate self-reactive antibodies.
Under normal circumstances, according to the Wistar study, a critical balance may exist between T helper cells and regulatory T cells. The researchers saw that providing T helper cells to healthy mice could cause autoreactive B cells to become active, and that removing T helper cells could alleviate disease in lupus-prone mice. They also found that regulatory T cells could stop T helper cells from activating the B cells, suggesting that the presence of self-reactive T helper cells with too few regulatory T cells may be
Contact: Franklin Hoke
The Wistar Institute