Researchers: Immune system master switch key to new treatments

February 14, 2019
A new study suggests scientists have discovered a critical part of the body's immune system with potentially major implications for the treatment of some of the most devastating diseases affecting humans, including multiple sclerosis. According to the study’s authors, the discovery could be translated into a viable drug treatment for MS within a few years.

Researchers at the University of Manchester said the discovery of the molecular pathway regulated by a tiny molecule – known as microRNA-142 – is a major advance in our understanding of the immune system. The 10-year-study found that microRNA-142 controls regulatory T cells, which modulate the immune system and prevent autoimmune disease. They found it is the most highly expressed regulator in the immune system.

If the activity of regulatory T-cells is too low, this can cause other immune cells to attack our own body tissues. If these regulatory T-cells are too active, this leads to suppression of immune responses and can allow cancers to evade the immune system. Being able to control them is a major step forward in the ability to control – and harness – the therapeutic power of the immune system.

The researchers said the findings could translate into treatments for MS within a few years.

It is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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