Leszek Ignatowicz, a researcher from Georgia State University, recently received a 5 year, almost 2 million dollar grant from the NIH for his investigation into multiple sclerosis (MS). This project will work to increase our understanding of the immune cells which cause not only MS, but other autoimmune conditions as well.
T-cells are a driver of many autoimmune diseases. The body’s own T-cells attack the patient’s tissue. The T-cells are activated through the recognition of a specific antigen, achieved through the receptors on the cells. This triggers an immune response in the body.
The body’s process for ensuring autoreactive responses don’t occur is called tolerance and it is achieved one of two ways. Unfortunately, when tolerance fails, autoimmune conditions occur.
Central tolerance is a process where young T-cells go through a type of training in the body’s thymus. The T-cells that react with antigens in the thymus are deemed autoreactive. These cells do not survive. The T-cells that don’t produce a reaction to the antigens are able to exit the thymus and go on to mature.
The problem is, some of the autoreactive T-cells are not filtered out through this process. The T-cells that escape become immunosuppressive. These are called Tregs.
Thankfully, Tregs don’t automatically mean destruction. Peripheral tolerance can step in to prevent a potential autoreactive action. When these T-cells are activated by antigens, molecules are released which work to limit the resulting inflammation.
When both of these forms of tolerance fail, autoreactive T-cells, instead of becoming Tregs, become mature inflammatory cells.
This new research project by Dr. Ignatowicz is working to create a deeper understanding of these forms of tolerance. If we can truly understand each and every point in which these processes may go awry, we can work to prevent the autoimmune reaction and ultimately prevent autoimmune conditions.
Within this research the team will investigate how the T-cells escape the tolerance process and which specific antigens these cells are responding to.
Through this new understanding, we will be able to better investigate the specific mechanisms of MS and other autoimmune diseases, and come up with new innovative therapies to improve patient lives.
You can read more about this new research project here.