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Autoimmune disease treatment may be found in blood cells

Category: Autoimmune Diseases

Researchers out of Purdue University have discovered a way to convert blood cells into treatments for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. By direction the differentiation of T-cells to make them keep autoimmune disease-induced inflammation from developing, scientists can combat some of the painful side effects.

The researchers were able to do this by using naive T-cells - immature cells that all T-cells come from - and turning them into suppressive cells that are able to cease inflammation. The immature cells can be gathered from patients' blood and are altered before getting injected back into the bloodstream.

"These cells are being directed to become a type of cell that is already present in our bodies, where a fine balance between inflammatory T-cells and suppressive T-cells is maintained," said Chang Kim, lead author of the study. "We are just tipping the scales in favor of suppressive T-cells to reduce inflammation."

Kim went on to note that this method of treatment doesn't cause the same side effects that immune-suppressive drugs have, and the fact that the cells are coming from the patients means that the body won't reject them upon injection. He also expressed hope that this treatment strategy be used in patients once every six months, rather than having to take a pill every day.

The report noted that autoimmune diseases are when an individual's immune system attacks his or her body rather than targeting viruses and bacteria. By directing cells to healthy tissue and organs, the immune system actually causes tissue destruction and painful inflammation.

Autoimmune diseases and current treatments
Lab testing is necessary to determine if one has an autoimmune disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms include fatigue, fever and general malaise. Current treatments seek to alleviate symptoms, control the autoimmune process and enable the body's immune system to fight foreign cells. Treatments include supplements to replace something the body is lacking, such as a hormone or vitamin, blood transfusions, physical therapy or immunosuppressive medicines.

The NIH noted that current treatments can result in serious side effects, such as infections that are difficult to control. Autoimmune disease often affect the blood vessels, thyroid or pancreas, joints, red blood cells, muscles, skin and connective tissues. Such diseases include Celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

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