In DepthImmunology

Fighting autoimmunity with immune cells

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Science  01 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6294, pp. 14
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6294.14

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Autoimmune diseases share a grim similarity with cancer: People's own cells become their enemies. But a study published online in Science reveals a happier parallel, suggesting that a therapy designed to harness the immune system to attack cancer cells may also cull the turncoat immune cells behind certain autoimmune diseases. The approach relies on chimeric antigen receptor T cells, or CAR T cells: immune cells genetically modified to home in on a desired target on cancer cells or—in this case—on rogue B cells, another immune cell type. The new study only gauged the CAR T cells' capabilities in the lab dish and in mouse models of pemphigus vulgaris, an autoimmune condition in which B cells secrete antibodies that attack a protein in skin and mucous membrane. But some scientists are already calling the approach, which specifically targets the errant B cells, a breakthrough.