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Immune System Passports

March 12, 2013

Researchers have successfully copied a molecule that protects our bodies from our own immune systems.



An immune system passport.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our immune systems are designed to attack invaders, but spare our own cells.  Now, researchers have copied the molecule that gives our cells that protection.  University of Pennsylvania biomolecular engineer Pia Rodriguez and her colleagues created a synthetic version of a peptide called CD47 – which protects cells from being eaten by immune cells called phagocytes.  Doctors could use the synthetic version like a passport, to safely deliver drugs and other medical devices into the body.

PIA RODRIGUEZ (University of Pennsylvania):

We found a way to fool our immune system, in order to send the right drugs to the right place.

The molecules could also help treat in autoimmune diseases like arthritis, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the host body. Rodriguez says that a lack of these CD47 peptides is part of the problem, and flooding healthy tissue with the artificial version may protect it. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Phagocytes, like this neutrophil, "eats" invading cells. (Volker Brinkmann/Public Library of Science)