Many serious autoimmune conditions produce symptoms that are caused by inflammation, and as a result many drugs that are made for treating these conditions target the body’s inflammatory processes. These processes are controlled by the immune system. The catch is, while these inflammation drugs control a hyper-inflammatory response, they weaken the immune system at the same time. They inhibit certain processes that are essential to fighting off antigens that cause infections. Some autoimmune conditions that involve chronic inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis. An article detailing a breakthrough designer cell treatment for such conditions was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine in mid-December.
December Cover of Science Translation Medicine Displaying Designer T Cell
Bioengineers in Switzerland have developed designer cells that stop the inflammatory process caused by specific disease-causing proteins before symptoms even begin to show. Their first designer cells are made to control psoriasis. These new designer cells are actually human T cells that have been programmed to sense and recognize proteins that trigger psoriasis flare-ups. In response to the detection of these proteins, the designer T cells produce other proteins that are anti-inflammatory in nature and stop the inflammatory proteins before they can affect the body. As a result, they stop a psoriasis flare-up before it even starts.
Because these T cells are only programmed to produce anti-inflammatory compounds when specific psoriasis-causing proteins are detected, they don’t weaken the immune system overall. This designer T-cell treatment has been proven to be effective in mice with psoriasis. Studies were conducted using all the same proteins found in humans, and the treated mice showed no weakening of the immune system after treatment. What’s even more promising is that these cells can also be programmed to detect other types of pro-inflammatory proteins that are caused by other conditions, such as arthritis.
In the future, it’s possible that a patient could go see a doctor about their specific autoimmune condition, and the doctor could inject them with the appropriate designer T cells to stop the condition in its tracks. The bad news in all of this is that Dr. Martin Fussenegger, a senior author on the study, says that it will probably be another 10 years before this type of inflammation treatment can be packaged and sold to treat patients. This is typical, as it often takes 12 years for a drug to get from the research stage to the market with all the safety requirements that need to be met before it can be sold to the public.
Get more information about inflammation and anti-inflammatory drugs at our Inflammation Conditions Page.