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Natural immune-control system may aid treatment of autoimmune disease and tissue rejection

BOSTON -- The immune systems ability to police itself may offer a new method of arresting the cells responsible for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and for the rejection of transplanted organs and tissues, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report in a study in the May issue of the journal Immunity and which will be available online on May 17, 12 noon ET.

Because the technique utilizes the bodys own mechanism for controlling the immune system, it may prove more effective and less prone to side effects than current therapies, which take a less direct approach, the study authors indicate. Although the research was done in mouse cells, it is likely to apply to humans because of strong similarities between mouse and human immune cells.

"We found that when we block a key interaction between two types of immune system cells, one of those types -- which is often associated with autoimmune disease and tissue rejection -- is attacked and dies," says senior author Harvey Cantor, MD, of Dana-Farber. "The fact that this approach uses the body's natural system for regulating the immune response encourages us that it can be the basis of an effective therapy for a variety of immunological conditions."

Autoimmune disease and tissue rejection pose a complex challenge to scientists. Both problems result from an attack by immune system cells -- which are trained to detect and destroy infected or diseased tissue -- on parts of the body where it isn't wanted. In the case of rejection, they recognize transplanted tissue as foreign and mount an assault on it. In autoimmune diseases, they attack the bodys own tissue as through it were foreign.

Conventional therapies for these conditions can have serious drawbacks. Many of them rely on natural substances called antibodies, which wedge inside receptors on immune system T cells. The coupling blindfolds T cells to the presence of foreign or diseased tissue, blunting their abilit
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
17-May-2007


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