Findings could lead to new understanding of diabetes, Crohn’s, and more
Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, and other institutions have identified the function of a protein, dubbed aire, that is critical to helping immune cells learn to recognize--and avoid attacking--the far-flung organs and tissues of the body. The protein appears to work by turning on in the thymus, which lies beneath the breast bone, the production of a wide array of proteins from the bodys periphery. The discovery could shed light not only on how the healthy immune system develops tolerance to its own proteins but also how tolerance is lost, as it is in diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns disease and other autoimmune illnesses.
"Our findings lead back to humans because they tell us about a very important mechanism for controlling autoimmunity," said Diane Mathis, a Harvard Medical School professor of medicine at Joslin. "At the same time, they may help us understand why people develop autoimmune diseases." The findings are reported in the Oct. 11 Science.
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