Liver cells undergoing an autoimmune attack
Credit: Alejandro Villarino, University of Pennsylvania.
Since their discovery, cytokines have provided biomedical researchers with a tangled web of immune-system pathways to unknot. While most known cytokines have a role in stimulating immunity, one cytokine, IL-27, may actually suppress CD4 T cells, the helper T cells that orchestrate the immune system response to infections, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Their findings could provide researchers with a way to clamp down on dozens of autoimmune conditions caused by an overzealous immune system, such as Crohn disease, lupus or even sepsis. Their research is the cover article for the November issue of the journal Immunity.
"When the immune system is activated there is a cascade of cytokine interactions that regulate the growth and functions of an array of immune cells," said Christopher Hunter, an associate professor in Penn Department of Pathobiology and senior author of the paper. "Contrary to previous studies, the IL-27 cytokine actually limits the duration and intensity of T cell activation, an ’off switch’ as it were."
Greg Lester | University of Pennsylvania
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