SAN DIEGO (June 14, 2007) An important finding, which could eventually lead to a new therapeutic approach for treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, psoriasis and others, was announced today by researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI). The studies, conducted in laboratory mice, demonstrated the role of retinoic acid, a substance derived when Vitamin A is broken down in the body, in regulating inflammation.
In their studies, published today in the online version of the journal Science, the LIAI researchers showed that by manipulating the amount of retinoic acid in mice, they could affect the number of pro-inflammatory T cells, a type of white blood cell responsible for several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. The finding is an important first step that, if eventually found to be true in humans, points to the potential of a new avenue of therapies using retinoic acid to treat these diseases.
Whats exciting about this finding is theyve found that retinoic acid plays a role in modulating the switch between these two distinct (T cell) lineages the induced regulatory T cells, which are anti-inflammatory, and the TH-17 lineage, which promotes inflammatory responses, said Casey Weaver, M.D., a University of Alabama, Birmingham, professor and prominent immunology researcher, who was key in the discovery of TH-17 in 2005.
Further, Dr. Weaver said, the LIAI researchers had developed a mechanism by which you can prevent the development of the (inflammatory) lineage. This is very exciting because it provides a potential pharmacological application for this finding.
The finding was published today in a paper entitled Reciprocal Th-17 and regulatory T cell differentiation mediated by retinoic acid. Hilde Cheroutre, Ph.D., led the research team, entirely from LIAI, in which Daniel Mucida, Ph.D., and Yunji Park, Ph.D., were key contributors.<