Immune System May Harbor Natural Way of Fighting MS, Other Autoimmune Diseases

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A variant in the TYK2 gene, which encodes an immune system protein, may work to protect people from autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), without overly depressing the body’s ability to fight opportunistic infections, researchers at the University of Oxford report.

Their study, “Resolving TYK2 Locus Genotype-To-Phenotype Differences In Autoimmunity,” was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by overly active cells of the immune system, which react against the body. For that reason, current treatments for MS and other autoimmune disorders include effects that weaken the immune system, but these therapies leave patients vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.

To understand which molecular mechanisms could help balance immune system activity, researchers investigated genetic variants, influencing the function of a gene called TYK2.

The protein produced by this gene (with the same name) plays a crucial role in maintaining a person’s immunity, as it contributes to fighting off infections or cancer. However, this protein can also promote the development of autoimmune disorders.

Importantly, researchers found that a single variation in the TYK2 gene led to reduced production of the protein — to levels that were no longer able to trigger autoimmune disorders, but were just enough to still protect a person against other diseases. These results indicate that treatments that promote optimal production levels of TYK2 may be effective and safe options for patients with autoimmune disorders.

“Developing new drugs is a costly and time-consuming process,” said Lars Fugger, the study’s senior author, in a news release. “On average it costs over £1 billion and takes over 10 years to bring a new drug to market, and more than 90% of drugs that enter into clinical trials are not ultimately approved. This is because the majority of drugs fail to demonstrate sufficient efficacy to treat disease or they are associated with severe unwanted side effects.”

“While our research indicates that TYK2 could be a good drug target for treating autoimmune diseases, drugs that block the activity of immune cells have been known to leave patients vulnerable to infections and to increase the risk of cancer,” he added. “However, by interrogating data available through the UK Biobank, the most comprehensive health study in the UK, we found that people carrying the protective TYK2 genetic variant were no more likely to have serious infections or to develop cancer than people without the variant.”

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Joana brings more than 8 years of academic research and experience as well as Scientific writing and editing to her role as a Science and Research writer. She also served as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology in Coimbra, Portugal, where she also received her PhD in Health Science and Technologies, with a specialty in Molecular and Cellular Biology.
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6 comments

  1. chelle says:

    I am 24 years of age and been diagnosed with ms it’s so hard to understand it and I am half blind in one eye weak bladder and walk off balence dizzy and it’s really affecting me am still young and I am missing out on life I really hope and wish that one day there will be a cure. Humans were put here for a reason to live a life…life is a gift and I dont think this is what this world is about anymore it’s all about money and greed we should all help each other we are human beings I wish everyone no matter what country we are from would just help each other and get on 😢 please scientists help us!

    • Jeanette says:

      Hi Chelle, I hear you. I’m 31 and have been diagnosed with MS this year after living with strange symptoms since I was 20. My father has always instilled in me the importance of being independent and so having this illness made it very difficult to accept that I may one day be fully dependent on others. I wish there was a cure, but as there isn’t I’ve decided to look for a cure in myself. How do I do this? I eat vibrant colorful fruits and vegetables. I exercise while singing through the pain. I take supplements, I meditate, I journal, I pray and I spend time with good beautiful spirits (family and friends). I haven’t started taking medication yet, but I plan to do so to complement my new lifestyle and eating habits. I feel wonderful! No more walking like a drunkard, no more tingling and fatigue. I truly believe I was bestowed the responsibility of this disease because I needed a wake up call. I needed to believe in myself and have the faith to move into a higher level of being, to truly feel what it means to be alive. Some days are easier than others, but I allow myself time to relax. Chelle, we WERE put here for a higher reason: to live life and beat the never ending obstacles that come our way. I don’t know you but I believe in you. I read the strength in your words. I wish for you the ability to change your mind to thereafter change your world. Things get better. Good luck Chelle 🙂

  2. chelle says:

    Thankyou so much please could you help me like tell me what you do day to day to help me with my balence and dizziness I had it since end of July so annoying and like your diet plan ect if you don’t mind. Thankyou very much for replying means alot xx

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