Australian researchers say an "incredible" discovery could allow new treatments for asthma and prevent autoimmune diseases and life-threatening anaphylaxis. They have found a natural way the body stops rogue antibodies causing disease through a protein called neuritin.
Allergies and autoimmune diseases, where the body's defenses turn rogue and target healthy tissue, are increasing in adults and children, but researchers aren’t quite sure why.
At the Australian National University, scientists have found that humans have their own mechanisms for fighting back against these pathogenic antibodies that can cause autoimmunity or allergies.
Professor Carola Vinuesa said it’s an exciting discovery.
“We found a protein called neuritin that is made by our own immune system, and we never knew before that our immune system could make this protein, and it proves to be quite important to prevent allergies autoimmune diseases,” she said.
Neuritin is like a supercharged antihistamine, the type of drug commonly used to treat allergy symptoms.
Vinuesa hopes the research could provide a completely new approach to current treatments for immune conditions, which can have a debilitating effect on patients.
“We tend to either dampen the entire immune system or use drugs that tend to either eliminate an entire cell type or some products of the immune system that normally are required to fight infection,” she said. “So, by using one of our own products that our own body produces, we could leave most of the immune system, or all of the immune system, intact, and simply enhance our own defense mechanisms against allergy and autoimmunity.”
Researchers say there are more than 80 known autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis.
The Australian study began five years ago and used genetically engineered mice and human cells grown in a laboratory. It was published in the science journal Cell.