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AAI honors Chen Dong for breakthrough T lymphocyte research
Date:4/16/2009

iseases result.

IL-17 was a suspect in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, but its origins were unknown and function poorly understood. By revealing the Th17 pathway, Dong's team provided a new target for novel drugs for both types of disease. Pharmaceutical companies have advanced drugs to clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis based on Dong's work.

"For about 20 years, people believed that immune responses were limited to either Th1 or Th2 pathways. It was black and white, one or the other," Dong said.

T cells are lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell produced by the thymus equipped with receptors that recognize and bind to antigens, pieces of invading organisms presented to the T cells by dendritic cells. The bound antigen converts the T cell to T helper cells that secrete signaling molecules called cytokines to launch an appropriate immune response.

Th1 mediates the immune response against microbial invaders such as viruses and bacteria, Dong said. Th2 coordinates attacks on large parasites that don't penetrate cells.

Evidence erodes conventional wisdom

Th1 was the prime suspect, Dong said, because it produces interferon-gamma (IFN-y), a powerful cytokine associated with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

In 2002, Dong and colleagues were busy characterizing molecules in addition to T cell receptors that control immune tolerance against self tissues, another field cited by the AAI award. They exposed mice that were missing one of these crucial receptors from their T cells to a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis. There was plenty of interferon gamma present in the mice, but no arthritis.

"The mutants were completely resistant to developing rheumatoid arthritis. There was no joint inflammation, antibody responses were reduced. It was remarkable," Dong said. "I wished to know why."

His desire led to an intensive review of clinical research on autoimmune diseas
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Contact: Scott Merville
smerville@mdanderson.org
713-516-4855
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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AAI honors Chen Dong for breakthrough T lymphocyte research
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