Researchers have discovered a natural protein, neuritin, that protects the body against autoimmune diseases and life-threatening allergies.
Our immune system, which is responsible for protecting us from foreign threats, can often turn on us and lead to autoimmune diseases. And sometimes a hyperactive immune system can even lead to life-threatening allergic reactions. Although there are a number of ways to manage allergies, currently no cure exists. However, it seems researchers may have discovered a natural protein that can form the basis of new treatments against such conditions. Called neuritin, the protein was discovered by scientists at the Australian National University (ANU). The findings are available in the journal Cell.
Neuritin is a protein responsible for maintaining the brain and nervous system. However, Dr Paula Gonzalez Figueroa and her colleagues hypothesized that the protein may have a far greater impact than currently known. Therefore, they set out on a five-year-long journey to investigate its role in the immune system.
Neuritin Suppresses Rogue Plasma Cells
The team of researchers used transgenic mice and lab-grown human cells for their study. The mice were genetically engineered to lack follicular regulatory T cells (Tfr). These are responsible for producing neuritin. They next injected the mice with albumin, a protein found in eggs. This not only resulted in the production of rogue plasma cells but also an increased risk of dying in mice. Rogue plasma cells eventually form self-antigens, resulting in autoimmune disorders. However, when the same mice received injections of neuritin, these plasma cells disappeared from their body.
Researchers also analyzed white blood cells from human tonsils and blood to investigate the function of the protein. They discovered that neuritin prevented the excessive production of IgE (Immunoglobin E), an antibody produced in response to allergens.
Study authors believe their results can help develop new and better treatments targeting life-threatening allergies and autoimmune disease.
Gonzalez-Figueroa, Paula, et al. “Follicular Regulatory T Cells Produce Neuritin to Regulate B Cells.” Cell, 11 Mar. 2021, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2021.02.027.