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Archive - Feb 27, 2012


Study of New Cell May Lead to New Treatments for Asthma, Other Allergies

A collaboration between scientists at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and in the United Kingdom has identified new processes that lead to the development of a novel cell (the nuocyte) implicated in allergies. The discovery has the potential to spawn new strategies to treat asthma and other allergic diseases. The research findings were published in the March 2012 issue of Nature Immunology. The work was performed by Professor Padraic Fallon, Science Foundation Ireland Stokes Professor of Translational Immunology of TCD's School of Medicine, Dr. Andrew McKenzie of the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues. The number of people with allergic disease, such as asthma and atopic dermatitis, is increasing globally with Irish children having the fourth highest incidence of asthma in the world. A major area of research in developing new strategies to treat allergic diseases is directed towards increasing understanding of the processes and cells involved in causing allergic inflammation. Professor Fallon and colleagues previously discovered a new white blood cell (the nuocyte) that initiates the early generation of the immune responses that can lead to asthma or other allergic conditions. In the current study, a new pathway for the development of nuocytes was identified and a transcription factor, RORalpha, was shown to be critical for both the generation of nuocytes and of allergic-like inflammation. This new finding identifies targets for allergic diseases that could be developed into new therapeutic strategies. [Press release] [Nature Immunology abstract]

Research Refutes Popular Hypothesis of Multiple Sclerosis Triggering Mechanism

Millions of adults suffer from the incurable disease multiple sclerosis (MS). It is relatively certain that MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own defense cells attack the myelin in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin enwraps the nerve cells and is important for their function of transmitting stimuli as electrical signals. There are numerous unconfirmed hypotheses on the development of MS, one of which has now been refuted by the neuroimmunologists in their current research: The death of oligodendrocytes, as the cells that produce the myelin sheath are called, does not trigger MS. With their research, published February 26, 2012 in Nature Neuroscience, the scientists disprove the so-called "neurodegenerative hypothesis," which was based on observations that certain patients exhibited characteristic myelin damage without a discernable immune attack. In the popular hypothesis, the scientists assume that MS-triggering myelin damage occurs without the involvement of the immune system. In this scenario, the immune response against myelin would be the result – and not the cause – of this pathogenic process. The aim of the current research project was to confirm or disprove this hypothesis based on a new mouse model. Using genetic tricks, the researchers induced myelin defects without alerting the immune defense. "At the beginning of our study, we found myelin damage that strongly resembled the previous observations in MS patients," explains Dr. Burkhard Becher, a professor at the University of Zurich. "However, not once were we able to observe an MS-like autoimmune disease." In order to ascertain whether an active immune defense causes the disease based on a combination of an infection and myelin damage, the researchers conducted a variety of further experiments – without success.