This was demonstrated by the research team of the immunologist Burkhard Becher at the University of Zurich in an animal model. Unlike other known cytokines, they write in the journal Nature Immunology, this messenger substance is essential for the development of the disease. By the end of this year, a clinical trial will be launched in which GM-CSF is to be neutralized in MS patients.
The immune systems main task is to protect us from pathogenic microorganisms. To do so, an armada of immune cells is diligently instructed to search for invading pathogens. The ability of immune cells to communicate with one another is vital to this protection. Mistakes in the communication can lead to ‘misunderstandings’ and an erroneous attack against ones own tissues. Such is the case in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes, where the immune system inadvertently attacks the body. So-called helper T cells are chiefly responsible for the fatal immune response.
There are various sub-classes of helper T cells with different tasks and responsibilities. Clinicians and researchers have long been trying to ascertain which sub-class the rogue T cells that attack the body’s own organs in autoimmune diseases actually belong to. T cells release certain messenger substances, known as cytokines, which in turn coordinate the appropriate immune response. Until now, the type of T-cell and, above all, the relevant cytokine that causes the inflammation in the brain and spinal cord were not known.
The research team of Professor Burkhard Becher has spent six years testing the relevant cytokines by a process of elimination in transgenic mouse models of multiple sclerosis. Over the years, they were able to cross many factors off the list before eventually hitting the jackpot with GM-CSF (granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor). GM-CSF is produced by a newly discovered subclass of helper T cells. “The MS-like disease could not be induced in mice without GM-CSF,” says Becher. “What’s more, the disease could even be cured in MS mice if the cytokine was neutralized.”
GM-CSF is not a new cytokine; we already knew that it can cause or aggravate inflammation. Apart from GM-CSF, however, all the other cytokines studied thus far only played a minor role. “GM-CSF is therefore the first T-cell cytokine that’s essential for the initiation of an inflammatory reaction,” says Becher. Furthermore, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the GM-CSF delivered to the brain by T cells activates the recruitment of tissue-damaging scavenger cells. “Without scavenger cells like these, the inflammation can’t really get going in the first place and the neutralization of GM-CSF can even reverse the inflammatory process,” says the immunologist.
Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are currently being treated with neutralizing antibodies against GM-CSF in a clinical trial. A trial with MS patients is due to begin at the end of 2011. “We’re extremely hopeful,” says Becher enthusiastically. “But whether this form of therapy will actually help MS patients remains to be seen. Quiet optimism is the way to go,” he explains.
Irrespective of the clinical trial, the team expects the study to have a significant impact on basic and clinical research. “We’re really making headway; we now understand much better how an inflammatory lesion can develop in the brain.”References:
What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering