A Taiwan-U.S. research team has identified an RNA molecule that plays a key role in repressing regulatory T cells, a discovery that may lead to a possible cure for autoimmune diseases such as lupus and ankylosing spondylitis.
Yang Huang-yu (???), a nephrologist at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, explained that T cells can prevent the human immune system from becoming hyperactive and mistaking healthy body cells for invading pathogens.
Previous studies found that in the event of an infection, the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) will make T cells lose their regulatory functions, resulting in the immune system attacking healthy cells, he said.
The latest study, conducted by a team of scientists from Chang Gung and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, discovered that IL-6 represses T cells through microRNA-17 (miR-17), and removing microRNA-17 will help the immune system restore its balance, he said.
The team has experimented with the study in animals and is currently applying for a patent, he said, adding that a drug based on the results is expected to be developed within five to 10 years.
The findings were published in the medical journal Immunity in July.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel