A new study has found a way of manipulating the differentiation of T cells in the immune system so as to strike a balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cells. This discovery may have implications for treating autoimmune diseases and some types of cancer. Autoimmune diseases are triggered when our immune system misidentifies healthy cells as foreign bodies and decides to attack them. In this process, certain cells called “T cells,” which are found in the immune system, are involved. T cells are of different types and have distinct functions, but their main role is to mediate immune reactions in the body. Some T cells are pro-inflammatory, promoting an immune response, while others are immunosuppressive, regulating the “aggressiveness” of this response. Autoimmune diseases, as well as some types of cancer such as colorectal cancer and lung cancer, are mediated by certain T cell imbalances in the immune system. These imbalances lead either to anomalous inflammations, or to a lack of reaction, wherein the body is unable to identify pathogens. Recently, much research has been conducted into a particular type of T cells called “T helper 17” (Th17) cells. Studies have found that Th17 cells can be unstable, thus sustaining autoimmune diseases and mediating some cancers.
Medical News Today, 7 August 2017 ;