Could 'Tiny Fat Bubbles' Be The Key To Solving Autoimmune Disease?
There are more than 100 different autoimmune diseases—which include anything from Hashimoto's and rheumatoid arthritis to psoriasis. Unfortunately, the existing treatments for this group of illnesses, which are characterized by an immune system that has gone haywire and started attacking the body's own tissues, leave a lot to be desired.
The good news is that researchers are working day and night to develop new, better treatments. And in the case of a new study published in JCI Insight, they may have found one.
A new way to treat autoimmune disease.
"People with these diseases currently require daily medications to modify or suppress their immune system," explained Ranjeny Thomas, professor at the University of Queensland, where the study was performed. According to her, a better strategy would be to use precision medicine to "re-regulate the specific part of the immune response that has gone wrong." In other words, reboot the immune system just like you would a piece of technology that's not working properly.
In this study, they aimed to do exactly that in mice with inflammatory arthritis or vasculitis, two types of autoimmune diseases. The researchers found specific cells to target, called dendritic cells, that act as important messengers in the immune system. To reset the system, the team created tiny fat bubbles, also known as liposomes, that would be absorbed by dendritic cells and restore immune function. According to Thomas, "These fat bubbles held the key to rebooting the immune system and calming the disease process."
What resetting the immune system really means.
This immune system reboot also involved T-cells, which are the cells in the immune system that distinguish between outside invaders and the body's own tissues. When T-cells go rogue because of chronic inflammation, the body starts attacking its own tissue, and autoimmune disease ensues. This study demonstrated that this type of therapy could re-regulate immune T-cells so they started functioning correctly again—regardless of the chronic inflammation that might have been occurring.
As Thomas explained, "This study shows in mice that antigen-specific immunotherapy can be used to treat existing inflammatory autoimmune diseases, as well as to prevent future disease." And that's a big deal, considering the fact that autoimmune diseases are extremely common, affecting more than 23.5 million Americans—and are one of the most common causes of disability.
We still have to wait for these therapies to be tested in humans, so for now we can work to prevent autoimmune disease by avoiding these 12 common triggers and eating an anti-inflammatory diet, which means avoiding foods like sugar, unhealthy fats, and dairy.
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