With pemphigus, the immune system attacks the organism: It attacks a group of proteins that is necessary for the cohesion of skin cells with antibodies. The usually tight cell structure dissolves, cavities that fill with fluids develop in the skin. Thin-walled blisters form out of this.
"The most dangerous thing about this disease is that it destroys the skin's barrier function", says Jens Waschke, Professor for Anatomy. The body threatens to desiccate, furthermore, dangerous bacteria can enter and cause blood poisoning.
The rare disease mostly affects people between 40 and 70: About 80 cases are recorded in Germany per year. The chronic condition is currently being treated with cortisone and other drugs that suppress the immune system. "This, however, leads to sometimes severe side effects that justify the search for new therapies", thinks the professor.
Damaging effects of antibodies diminished
Fighting the dangerous antibodies in the patient's organism: In the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Waschke, his colleague Detlev Drenckhahn and further researchers from Würzburg describe how this could work in principle.
The team was able to significantly reduce the damaging effects of the antibodies in cell cultures. This was accomplished with small, protein-like molecules (peptides) that were constructed specifically for this purpose: They lower the degree in which the skin cells break apart under the influence of the antibodies by about half.
Next, the scientists have to test if this positive effect can also be achieved in living skin tissue. Should additional studies succeed, they possibly show the way to a new therapy against pemphigus. "We cannot administer the peptides themselves to humans because they could possibly cause immune reactions", explains Jens Waschke. Instead, a molecule has to be discovered that is structurally similar to the peptides and also has a similarly positive effect.
Pemphigus as a model disease
The researchers in Würzburg do not only focus on new therapies against the disease. They also want to gain fundamental insights. "Pemphigus is an important model to study which role antibodies play in the development of autoimmune diseases", says Jens Waschke. "Furthermore, we use the antibodies as tools to research the structure and regulation of contacts between cells."
Waschke emphasises that the interdisciplinary cooperation in the Special Research Area 487 in Würzburg is jointly responsible for the success of the research. Through computer modelling, biophysicist Thomas Müller figured out which structures the peptides must have to be effective. Chemist Athina Efthymiadis synthesized the peptides, biomedical scientist Wolfgang-Moritz Heupel carried out the experiments with an atomic force microscope.
Enno Schmidt from the dermatology clinic, who has transferred to Lübeck in the meantime, acted as the link to the medical area: He isolated the damaging antibodies from the blood of a pemphigus patient.
Peptides Targeting the Desmoglein 3 Adhesive Interface Prevent Autoantibody-induced Acantholysis in Pemphigus; Wolfgang-Moritz Heupel, Thomas Müller, Athina Efthymiadis, Enno Schmidt, Detlev Drenckhahn, and Jens Waschke. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol. 285, No. 13, pp 8589-8595, March 27, 2009, DOI 10.1074/jbc.M808813200
For further information
Professor Jens Waschke, ++49 (931) 31-2707, email@example.com
Robert Emmerich | idw
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
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,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy