Discovery of potent parasite protein may lead to new therapeutic options for inflammatory bowel conditions

November 24, 2017, University of Glasgow
High magnification micrograph of Crohn's disease. Biopsy of esophagus. H&E stain. Credit: Nephron/Wikipedia

A single protein from a worm parasite may one day offer new therapeutic options for treating inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis, that avoid the potentially serious side effects of current immunosuppressant medications.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, demonstrates the discovery of a distinct new worm protein which mimics a cytokine found in humans, known as transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β).

The newly-discovered protein switches off inflammation by inducing "regulatory T cells", the body's own means of dampening excessive reactivity.

The "Hygiene Hypothesis" suggests that some bugs and parasites may protect you from an overly-reactive immune system, which can cause allergy and other disorders. Harnessing this route of immune regulation is potentially a much safer option than our currently-available medications can offer.

First author Dr Danielle Smyth, Research Associate in Parasitology at the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, said: "Discovering a new protein that can potently induce regulatory T cells (Tregs) from is unexpected and very exciting in terms of finding a new potential biologic for inflammation conditions."

Inflammatory bowel diseases are made up of many variations, and each patient requires to be treated in an individual manner. As such, treatment approaches are being explored such as T cell therapy (taking a patient's T cells and converting them to Tregs and giving them back to the patient).

Dr Smyth added: "We hope to explore this option and see whether the Tregs our parasite molecule induce offer a regulatory advantage over current treatments."

Rick Maizels, Professor of Parasitology at the Institute, said: "The next horizon for these exciting findings will be to test whether the new can be used to treat inflammatory diseases, reaping the benefits of the 'hygiene hypothesis' and dispensing with the themselves."

The paper, 'A structurally distinct TGF-β mimic from an intestinal helminth parasite potently induces regulatory T cells' is published in Nature Communications.

Explore further: Cytokine controls immune cells that trigger inflammatory bowel disease, study finds

More information: Chris J. C. Johnston et al. A structurally distinct TGF-β mimic from an intestinal helminth parasite potently induces regulatory T cells, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01886-6

Related Stories

Cytokine controls immune cells that trigger inflammatory bowel disease, study finds

April 18, 2017
A certain cytokine, or small protein that helps cells communicate during immune responses, can control whether immune cells promote or suppress inflammatory bowel disease, a finding that could lead to new treatments, according ...

Innate lymphoid cells play an important role in regulation of intestinal inflammation

August 28, 2017
The intestine contains an extensive and diverse microbial biome, a population that includes potential pathogens and dietary antigens that need to be tolerated. Dysregulation of mucosal responses may cause a loss of tolerance, ...

Immune and nerve cells work together to fight gut infections

September 7, 2017
Nerve cells in the gut play a crucial role in the body's ability to marshal an immune response to infection, according to a new study from Weill Cornell Medicine scientists.

Latest research offers hope for patients with inflammatory diseases

January 19, 2017
University of Queensland researchers have discovered a molecular trigger for inflammation that could lead to new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and neurodegenerative diseases.

The swollen colon—cause of chronic inflammation discovered

April 28, 2017
Researchers at the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München have discovered that too much of the oncogene Bcl-3 leads ...

New target could soothe the itch of inflammatory skin conditions

July 17, 2017
Existing medicines could offer a new way to treat inflammatory skin conditions, researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Royal Melbourne Hospital have revealed.

Recommended for you

Immune signature predicts asthma susceptibility

February 16, 2018
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease driven by the interplay of genetics, environmental factors and a diverse cast of immune cells. In their latest study, researchers at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) ...

Scientists identify immune cascade that fuels complications, tissue damage in chlamydia infections

February 13, 2018
Closing a critical gap in knowledge, Harvard Medical School scientists have unraveled the immune cascade that fuels tissue damage and disease development in chlamydia infection—the most common sexually transmitted disease ...

Mouse study adds to evidence linking gut bacteria and obesity

February 12, 2018
A new Johns Hopkins study of mice with the rodent equivalent of metabolic syndrome has added to evidence that the intestinal microbiome—a "garden" of bacterial, viral and fungal genes—plays a substantial role in the development ...

Cancer killing clue could lead to safer and more powerful immunotherapies

February 12, 2018
New research could help to safely adapt a new immunotherapy—currently only effective in blood cancers—for the treatment of solid cancers, such as notoriously hard-to-treat brain tumours.

Mechanism behind autoimmune disorder revealed

February 7, 2018
Northwestern Medicine scientists discovered a previously-unknown mechanism of disease behind a specific autoimmune disorder, findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study shows how body prevents potentially useful bacteria from causing disease

February 7, 2018
A new study reveals a mechanism by which the immune system may decide whether a bacterial species is a partner in bodily processes or an invader worthy of attack.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.