PVM Researcher Discovers Key to Improved Autoimmune Disease Treatment

July 19, 2013

A discovery by Purdue Veterinary Medicine Professor of Immunology Chang Kim in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology may make it possible in the future to convert cells from a patient’s own blood into a treatment for autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. Dr. Kim created a way to direct the differentiation of T-cells by inducing naïve T-cells to become suppressive T-cells that block the development of painful inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases.  The naïve T-cells can be gathered from a patient's blood, treated and then re-injected, explained Dr. Kim, a university faculty scholar who also holds a joint appointment in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and is a member of Purdue's Center for Cancer Research. 

"These cells are being directed to become a type of cell that is already present in our bodies, where a fine balance between inflammatory T-cells and suppressive T-cells is maintained,” explained Dr. Kim. “We are just tipping the scales in favor of suppressive T-cells to reduce inflammation. Because of this there are none of the toxic side effects associated with many immune-suppressive drugs. In addition, cells from one's own body aren't rejected and remain in the body much longer. Instead of taking a pill every day, this could lead to a treatment administered, for example, every six months."

Dr. Kim added, "Treatment with suppressive T-cells has the potential to be a much more precise and targeted regulation of immune function than what currently exists. Treating autoimmune diseases without compromising a patient's immune system has been a big problem in the field." Dr. Kim’s discovery and research have been detailed in papers in the Journal of Immunology and the European Journal of Immunology. The group also filed a patent based on this work. The National Institutes of Health and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America funded the research. 

To view a complete news release, click here.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardener, Purdue News Service, ekgardner@purdue.edu

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