Faculty scientists have made a crucial discovery about an immune cell which is used in immunotherapies to treat diseases like type I diabetes.
Dr Mark Travis led a team from the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research who studied regulatory T-cells – important immune cells that prevent harmful immune responses. Their research concentrated on how these T-cells can help cure inflammatory diseases.
Generally, T-cells fight infections and are most useful when acting against foreign invaders in the body like pathogens. However, some T-cells react with our own tissues and cause damage – this is the basis for auto immune diseases like type I diabetes. This is where the regulatory T-cells come in. They help to fight against these rogue T-cells, preventing them causing damage to the body’s own tissue.
Regulatory T-cells are currently being used in clinical trials to help fight auto immune disease. The cells are taken from the patient, multiplied and then given back to them. This helps to suppress their illness.
The team have identified an important pathway by which the regulatory T-cells are activated to suppress the harmful T-cells during inflammation. Dr Travis explains:
“This knowledge is vitally important when trying to make regulatory T-cells for therapy. By knowing the importance of this pathway, we can now work to improve the suppressive nature of regulatory T-cells to make them more effective as treatments for disorders such as type I diabetes and organ transplant rejection.”
“It’s fascinating that getting rid of just one molecule can have such an impact on the body’s ability to fight disease. Our research is all about how the molecules interlink and react to each other, and in certain situations targeting just one molecule can boost or inhibit a response.”
The Faculty team demonstrated that the molecules are expressed in both humans and animals. The next step for them is to look at how the mechanism works in practice , using Inflammatory Bowel Disease as a model.