NIH scientists find a novel mechanism that controls the development of autoimmunity

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found a mechanism in the immune systems of mice that can lead to the development of autoimmune disease when turned off. The findings shed light on the processes that lead to the development of autoimmunity and could also have implications for the development of drugs to increase the immune response in diseases such as cancer and HIV. The study paper appears online today in the journal Nature.

The scientists from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), both part of the NIH, studied immune system T cells – specifically the helper T cell, an immune system component that helps other cells fight infection. They focused on the protein furin, an enzyme that plays an important role in the functioning of T cells.