A newly-discovered molecule may be capable of speeding up clinical trials to address autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.
This is according to a new study, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine. The study suggests that the new molecule, called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), could have a direct effect on the failings of immune cells.
Autoimmune diseases are caused by pro-inflammatory T-effector cells (a group of immune cells) erroneously identifying other cells as foreign bodies to be destroyed. The T-effector cells then try to destroy the cells in the same way they try to destroy bacteria. This is allowed to happen because another immune cell, known as the T-reg, also fails. T-reg cells are supposed to control T-effector cells, but fail to shut them down when they are not needed.
The study was conducted by simulating the conditions of type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The researchers suppressed the symptoms of the diseases by administering IGF-1, which forced the creation of T-reg cells.
The new study discovered that IGF-1 works on T-reg cells directly, instead of acting on another factor that indirectly triggers the production of T-reg cells.
“IGF-1 is already an approved therapeutic and has been tested in many different settings. That means it will be much easier to start clinical trials for IGF-1 in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases than it would if we were proposing a new, untested drug,” said Professor Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head of EMBL Australia, and lead author of the study.

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