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Researchers make breakthrough discovery of a new type of immune cell.

A multi-disciplinary research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has made a breakthrough discovery of a new type of immune cells that may help in the development of a future treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).

The team found that a new type of immune T helper cells named TH-GM cells play a crucial role in the immune system and pathogenesis of neuronal inflammation. The findings shed light on a possible new avenue for therapeutic intervention, which can be used independently or in conjunction with other treatment options to improve outcomes in the treatment of MS.

The team showed that STAT5, a member of the STAT family of proteins, programs TH-GM and initiates the immune response to an auto-antigen in responding to a signal from an interleukin, IL-7, causing neuroinflammation, pathogenesis and damage in the central nervous system. Blocking IL-7 or STAT5 would provide a significant therapeutic benefit for this disease. The opensource study is published in the journal Cell Research.

MS is the most prevalent autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, affecting about 2.5 million people globally, with cases showing a higher prevalence in Northern Europe. Despite many years of research, the causes of MS are largely unclear and the disease remains incurable.

This study offers an important insight into the mechanisms behind MS with the team stating that the results from the study may now provide a mechanistic link between IL-7/STAT5-mediated signalling and T helper cell-mediated pathogenicity.

The STAT family of proteins and their signalling pathway (called JAK-STAT) were originally discovered the team in 1992. Disturbance of this pathway was shown to be a major cause for many kinds of inflammatory diseases. Novel medicines interfering with JAK-STAT have since been approved in the United States, Europe, and Singapore for the treatment of numerous diseases, and annual sales of medicines involving JAK-STAT are expected to exceed US$1.6 billion in 2016.

The STAT family of proteins and their signalling pathway (called JAK-STAT) were originally discovered by the team in 1992. Disturbance of this pathway was shown to be a major cause for many kinds of inflammatory diseases. Novel medicines interfering with JAK-STAT have since been approved in the United States, Europe, and Singapore for the treatment of numerous diseases, and annual sales of medicines involving JAK-STAT are expected to exceed US$1.6 billion in 2016.

The newly discovered IL-7-STAT5 by the team in neuroinflammation significantly expands this line of medical research, development and therapeutic intervention in a number of major diseases.

Moving forward, the group are researching the physiological function of TH-GM to further the development of therapy for various human autoimmune diseases.

Source:  National University of Singapore

Schematic of TH-GM causing neuroinflammation, demyelination and nerve system damage.  A new type of T cell, TH-GM, produces a cytokine, GM-CSF, to recruit and activate other inflammatory cells, including macrophages, to cause neuroinflammation, demyelination and nerve system damage.  Photo credit:  National University of Singapore.
Schematic of TH-GM causing neuroinflammation, demyelination and nerve system damage. A new type of T cell, TH-GM, produces a cytokine, GM-CSF, to recruit and activate other inflammatory cells, including macrophages, to cause neuroinflammation, demyelination and nerve system damage. Photo credit: National University of Singapore.

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