In a novel approach that works around the gene defect in Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, an inherited immune deficiency disorder, researchers used an alternative cell signaling pathway to significantly improve immune function in a 13-year-old boy with the disease. The study, at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, provides a proof-of-principle that immunotherapy, which harnesses elements of the body's immune system, may be used to treat this rare but often deadly disorder.
"If this encouraging initial result holds up in further clinical studies, we may have a new treatment option for patients with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome," said pediatric immunologist Jordan S. Orange, M.D., Ph.D., who holds the newly established Jeffrey Modell Endowed Chair in Pediatric Immunology Research at Children's Hospital.
The immunotherapy study appears in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a complex immunodeficiency disorder characterized by recurrent infections, eczema and thrombocytopenia (a low platelet count). Mutations in the WAS gene disable its ability to produce WAS protein (WASp), which crucially affects immune cells—particularly natural killer (NK) cells, a major component of the innate immune system. Without WASp, immune defenses are compromised, leaving WAS patients at risk for premature death from infection and cancers. This risk exists even for patients mildly affected by WAS.
The only current cure for WAS is stem cell transplantation, a potentially risky procedure presently justified in severe cases. In addition, Orange recently contributed to a small experimental study of gene therapy for WAS led by European researchers, which achieved clinical benefits in two severely affected young boys.
The current study represents a different approach from either stem cell transplantation or gene therapy. Instead of introducing normally functioning immune cells or inserting DNA to correct the defective gene, Orange and colleagues identified and made use of an alternative pathway to restoring immune function.
The researchers used interleukin-2 (IL-2), a cytokine, or cell-signaling protein, a naturally occurring molecule with a key role in the immune system. In a series of cell studies, they revealed mechanisms by which IL-2 signals control actin filaments, cell structures that enable natural killer cells to mount an effective immune response.
"IL-2 enables NK cells to become cytotoxic—to kill foreign cells," said Orange. "This happens even in the absence of WASp, the protein that is deficient in WAS patients." Researchers in Orange's laboratory found that in cell cultures, IL-2 induced the function of a protein called WAVE2, similar to WASp, but independent of it. The WAVE2 protein acted similarly to WASp, but was accessed through an alternative pathway that enables function in NK cells.
Most importantly, IL-2 achieved clinical laboratory benefits in a teenaged patient in this study. The patient, a 13-year-old boy with mild WAS, had suffered recurrent respiratory tract infections and several of his uncles had died prematurely from blood-cell cancers.
The researchers injected the patient with pharmaceutically produced IL-2 in three treatment courses over 27 weeks. At the end of treatment, the patient's NK cells had cytotoxicity nearly identical to that of a healthy control subject. He tolerated the IL-2 treatment well, with only minor skin reactions at the injection site.
"Although follow-up studies will be necessary to investigate long-range benefits and test IL-2 in additional patients, the initial results are encouraging," said Orange. "If cytokines can provide clinical benefits with low toxicity, this may represent an important advance and opportunity for all patients with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome."
Orange has received international scientific recognition for his investigations of the biology of NK cells. In 1996, while a graduate student, he discovered that NK cells produce cytokines to participate in defending the body against viruses. Since that time, he has redefined the role of NK cell deficiencies in various human genetic disorders. At The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Orange directs the Jeffrey Modell Diagnostic Center, which cares for children with primary immunodeficiency diseases.
The National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Research Resources, the Jeffrey Modell Foundation, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute Foundation supported this study.
Jordan S. Orange et al, "IL-2 induces a WAVE2-dependent pathway for actin reorganization that enables WASp-independent human NK cell function," The Journal of Clinical Investigation, April 201l. doi: 10.1172/JCI44862
About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.
John Ascenzi | EurekAlert!
Correct connections are crucial
26.06.2017 | Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy