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Although the mysteries of autoimmune disease are far from solved, more effective treatments may be on the way.
Alfred A. Steinberg, MD, chief, Cellular Immunology Laboratory, National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIADDK), says, for example, that he and colleagues have shown that in mice a single, X-linked gene called xid— —in either the hemizygous or homozygous form—hampers development of a B lymphocyte subset. Mice without these B cells never develop impaired antibody responses or autoimmune disease, despite the presence of other predisposing genetic and environmental influences.
Efforts are now under way in his laboratory, says Steinberg, to identify a similar B cell subpopulation in humans that may be involved in autoantibody production. If this subpopulation is distinguished by a surface marker, the cells might be selectively eliminated without disrupting other aspects of the immune system.
Such a prospect seems heightened by the findings of
Zoler ML. Nature of autoimmune disease sought through treatment. JAMA. 1984;251(9):1125–1127. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340330003001
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