Posted January 29, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: General, Immune System

white blood cell, lymphocyteThe BBC is reporting that John’s Hopkins researchers have discovered one of the ways the immune system naturally restricts its own activity. Carabin is a protein produced by white blood cells, and places a drag on the immune reponse to an infection. Why would the body want to cripple its own immune response? How could it be useful for the body to hold back when an infection is in play? If you have an autoimmune disease, you already know the answer. When unrestricted, the immune system can be as much an enemy as a friend.

Researchers hope that this discovery will yield benefits for transplant patients in controlling the rejection of new organs, and possibly in the treatment of autoimmune diseases as well. However the protein, because of its size, will not be easy to incorporate into a drug.



Replacing IVIG

Posted January 29, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: Autoimmune Diseases, Lupus, M.S.

immunoglobin g care of NLMIVIG, intravenous immune globulin, is the intravenous injection of immunoglobulin G taken from more than a thousand plasma donors. For patients recieving this expensive, risky and time-consuming therapy for autoimmune diseases or chronic inflammatory diseases, there may be an alternative soon.

A small part of the current IVIG solution is responsible for disabling interferon gamma, which researchers identify as a significant source of inflammation. Researchers in New York believe they can seperate out, even synthesize the specific portion of the solution that will block interferon gamma. The result could be quick and easy, less expensive injections with less risk of infection. The timeframe? Possibly more than 3 years. The timeframe would be much longer if the active ingredient of this potential treatment were not already being used on human subjects, but if you are an IVIG patient, 3 years may try your patience nonetheless.


Link 2

Poison and M.S.

Posted January 27, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: M.S.

poisonWhen good systems go bad, it makes for odd bedfellows. Cancer happens when your cells fail to self-regulate their own existence, and one of the ways we attack it is with radiation that hurts us as well as the cancer. In M.S., the immune system is the malfunctioning system, and scientists in Portugal are experimenting with another treatment that’s normally deadly to humans. Normally oxygen is good and carbon monoxide is bad. In the twisted world of autoimmune diseases, these roles are reveresed.

The New Scientist today reports that carbon monoxide treatment has shown benefits for M.S. mice. Scientists caused experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in the mice, their version of M.S. Next they placed some of the mice in an envoirnment with levels of carbon monoxide that would cause discomfort for humans for 20 days. Those mice breathing the carbon monoxide were considerably less disabled than those breathing normal air.

One of the scientists suggests this can be explained by looking at carbon monoxide’s effects of immune system produced free radicals. In autoimmune diseases like M.S., the immune system may release too many free radicals, and the progression of the symptoms may be affected by their destructive ability. The carbon monoxide indirectly decreases the production of free radicals, and this may be why the M.S. mice fared better than their counterparts.

Cautionary quote:

Pharmaceutical companies are currently working on developing drugs that can deliver carbon monoxide locally within the nervous system, the researchers say. They stress that MS patients should under no circumstances try inhaling carbon monoxide – the gas can be lethal.


Update: M.S. and Parasites

Posted January 19, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: General, M.S.

parasiteEarlier I reported some confusion as to the explanation given by the South Coast Today regarding the effects of stomach parasites on the course of M.S. in an Argentinian study.

Wednesday’s BBC report on the same subject was more informative. The comparison between the accounts is equally illuminating. When explaining the cause of the results, the BBC explained it thusly:

The scientists said it was possible that the parasites were able to influence the production of T-cells – cells which “dampen down” immune reactions within the body, both ensuring their success, and reducing “autoimmune” illnesses such as MS.

No confusion there. The supposition is that the parasites are suppressing the immune system’s production of immune agents, presumably including both the particular types of T-cells that attack that parasite and those that attack the body’s own myelin surrounding the nervous system. Now read the South Coast Today explanation:

The finding suggests that when the body’s immune system is occupied with an external threat, it might be less likely to misfire, which happens in conditions known as autoimmune disorders.

That explanation posits that any time the immune system is engaged in fighting infection, it doesn’t have the resources to engage in self-destruction. The problem is that the resources the immune system would use to fight a parasitic infection are not the same resources it would use to attack its own myelin. Every T-cell is “keyed”, so that it can only attack a certain type of cell. When it comes into contact with that cell, it divides, increasing the supply of that particular keying of T-cell. If the body’s (insert specific parasite name here) parasite attacking T-cells are busy fighting the parasite infection, it has no effect (that I can think of) on the body’s supply of myelin attacking T-cells.

Only the more general immune suppression ability of parasites that the BBC describes makes sense in explaining the results arrived at. In comparing the accounts, the second lesson we arrive at today is the dependability of sources. The BBC took the time to record a reason that makes sense, even if it is only supposition. The South Coast Today didn’t bother. The latter’s style has the advantage of being ready for the ‘presses’ two days earlier. The former’s style has the advantage of being plausible.

South Coast Today
BBC report

Krauthammer’s Stem Cell Showdown

Posted January 17, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: General

stem cellOver the past couple of years the news has been full of the unbounded promise that exists in the world of embryonic stem cell research. Nary a voice in the mainstream exists that would forgive any limitations on stem cell research. It shows promise for understanding cancer, it shows promise in treating nerve damage, even spinal cord damage. It probably wouldn’t be very nice to press for details, because most stories don’t bother with them.  It is problematic that in a profession that values curiousity, there just aren’t many questions asked about the viability of the research or the immediacy of the promise.

Krauthammer broaches the topic after the discovery of the usefulness of stem cells found in amniotic fluid. The thrust of the column is that a source of stem cells that doesn’t create a moral delimma could end the showdown over funding.

You don’t need religion to tremble at the thought of unrestricted embryo research. You simply have to have a healthy respect for the human capacity for doing evil in pursuit of the good.

Once we have taken the position of many stem cell advocates that embryos are discardable tissue with no more intrinsic value than a hangnail or an appendix, then all barriers are down. What is to prevent us from producing not just tissues and organs, but human-like organisms for preservation as a source of future body parts on demand?

South Korea enthusiastically embraced unrestriced stem cell research. The subsequent greatly heralded breakthroughs – accompanied by lamentations that America was falling behind – were eventually exposed as a swamp of deception, fraud and coercion.

There’s no doubt that the media has been grossly irresponsible in its reporting on the topic. Whether amniotic fluids stem cells could solve the problem or not remains to be seen.


Building a better pancake

Posted January 17, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: Celiac

pancakesWell, better if you have celiac disease. Sufferors of celiac have an autoimmune reaction triggered when they consume gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

Apparently, finding gluten-free foods with similar attributes to the grains we know so well isn’t that easy. The glutens provide much of the texture we’re accustomed to. The Prairie Star reports that researchers (chemists) at the Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans have found a pancake recipe for light and fluffy gluten free pancakes using sweet potatoes and rice.

Apparently the sweet potato ingredients add impressive antioxident content as well. That’s not the sort of thing I think about when I chow on pancakes, but when you have chemists doing the cooking, that is the sort of thing that comes up.

Is your immune system just Really bored?

Posted January 17, 2007 by theautoimmunityblog
Categories: Uncategorized

leechNo decent blog long exists without grossly mischaracterizing a medical study. Today is my day.

The study in question suggests that MS patients with parasitic infections suffer fewer relapses than those without. 12 patients had the infection, 12 did not. Among the 12 that did there were 3 relapses over the 4 and 1/2 year period, and the 12 that did not suffered 56.

The interpretation recounted by South Coast Today is this:

The finding suggests that when the body’s immune system is occupied with an external threat, it might be less likely to misfire, which happens in conditions known as autoimmune disorders.

Sounds like boredom to me. Your immune system has nothing to do, it gets bored. It tries a few new hobbies but its nature is to be a vicious killer, and so kill it must. Autoimmune disease is a wonderful reminder that it’s good to have the immune system on your side.

Assuming there is something to this interpretation (the real one, not the joke), what confuses me is that the immune system doesn’t really play a resource juggling game. Once its agents are loose in the body, they pretty much operate on their own. If they encounter one of the microbes they were designed to attack, they attack and divide. Clearly my immune system knowledge exists on a low level, but how does the activity, no matter how great, of the parasite-reactive agents affect those agents that are self-product reactive? If this study is to be believed, somehow it does.

Story. Press Release.

Update: M.S. and Parasites