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Immune Roundup

February 12, 2009

A newly discovered blood protein could help researchers understand auto-immune diseases.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Decoding the body’s defenses. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers at the University of California and Ohio State made a major discovery while treating a patient who kept getting infections. They found the patient was producing a unique blood protein that reduced the number of infection fighting killer T cells. T cells protect us from invading microbes, but can also overreact and attack the body’s own cells. That’s what happens in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Studying the new protein and how it tamps down this response could lead to new treatments for these conditions.

In related news, scientists at Thomas Jefferson University have discovered the protein involved in detecting foreign or damaged DNA in a cell. The protein sends out an alarm signal to have the damaged cell destroyed. The team is hoping the protein could be harnessed to destroy cancer cells. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.