September 5, 2019
Lupus Research Alliance Research Committee member, Dr. Mark Davis (Stanford University), recently published an important paper in the highly prestigious journal Nature that may transform how scientists view autoimmune diseases, including lupus. Dr. Davis and his team studied a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system composed of the brain and spinal cord.
Traditionally it was understood that in in the mouse model of MS called experimental immune encephalomyelitis (EAE), immune cells known as CD4+ T cells, cause inflammation when large numbers of immune cells get activated and divide rapidly in response to proteins in the central nervous system.
In this study, the Davis group showed for the first time that in addition to the damage-causing CD4+ T cells, another type of T cell—CD8+ T cells—also get activated at the same time. However, instead of causing more damage, these “regulatory” CD8+ T cells can regulate or block the activity of the CD4+ T cells in both mice and humans. T cells are key cells of the immune system that fight infection, but in autoimmune diseases like MS and lupus, mistakenly attack a person’s own organs.
This work sheds light on another mechanism the immune system can use to control autoimmunity. Understanding how these regulatory CD8+ T cells work to control inflammation and whether they exist in other autoimmune diseases like lupus can lead to potentially new avenues for development of immune therapy.