Self-Sufficient: Human Body Produces Vaccines Against Inflammatory Disease

December 15, 2010

Researchers discovered a protein normally found in the body that can prevent chronic tissue inflammation.

Researchers at BRIC, the University of Copenhagen, have discovered that the human body can create its own vaccine, which boosts the immune system and helps prevent chronic inflammatory diseases.

The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and may have significant consequences in developing new medicine. The article is titled, “Endogenous collagen peptide activation of CD1d-restricted NKT cells ameliorates multiple tissue-specific inflammation in mice.”

Researchers at the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen discovered a protein normally found in the body that can act to prevent chronic tissue inflammation. When administered in the form of a therapeutic vaccine it is able to effectively prevent and treat a number of different inflammatory disease models for multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), skin hypersensitivity, and allergic asthma (AA).

Led by Principal Investigator Shohreh Issazadeh-Navikas, group leader for the Neuroinflammation Unit at BRIC, the study was the result of a translational collaboration involving researchers in Denmark, Sweden, and Germany. The article culminates a decade’s long search for ways to combat inflammation and inflammatory diseases.

“The implications of the findings are large as they shed light on an important way that the body combats inflammation and autoimmunity. Moreover, they establish a therapeutic approach for using the newly discovered protein as a treatment for multiple conditions,” said Shohreh Issazadeh-Navikas, in a press release.

Many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases are chronic and affect a large majority of people. Moreover, there is an inflammatory component to many common diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, RA, AA, MS, type II diabetes and cancers. The vaccine discovered by the researchers boosts special cells of the immune system, called NKT cells.

NKT cells are a type of T cell that exert profound and diverse regulatory effects in disease, from autoimmunity to responses to pathogens and cancer. For over two decades since their discovery NKT cells have traditionally been considered to be activated by lipid antigens presented by CD1 molecules. However, Professor Issazadeh-Navikas’ group was able to show for the first time the ability of a self peptide to activate NKT cells to suppress many tissue-specific inflammatory conditions including experimental autoimmune diseases.

This significant and novel finding offers a new perspective on the ways in which the body combats inflammation in both health and disease. In addition, the researchers identified the activation requirements and signaling pathway through which they exert their function.

Professor Issazadeh-Navikas highlights, “Our data offer a novel perspective on the physiological role of these cells in maintenance of tissue homeostasis and reduction of inflammation.”

The findings may advance the fields of autoimmunity, antigen presentation, and NKT cells. They provide mechanistic insight into the biology of these cells and their roles in disease and point the way to therapies to treat many of the common conditions of mankind.

Source: University of Copenhagen

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