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Manipulating the immune system like a parasite
Date:4/9/2008

One day it may be possible to mimic the tactics used by parasites to trick the body into accepting transplanted tissues or organs.

That is the hope of Dr Shane Grey from the Garvan Institute for Medical Research and Professor John Dalton from the Institute for the Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Technology (UTS). The pair has been awarded a $400,000 grant through the Australian Islet Transplantation Program, administered jointly by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

The grant will be divided equally between Garvan and UTS over a period of two years, and will combine Professor Daltons expertise in parasitology and biochemistry with Dr Greys expertise as a transplant immunologist.

When parasites invade humans, they secrete compounds that appear to change the way the immune system sees them. In other words, they alter the immune response.

Over time our immune system has evolved different ways to deal with different organisms and challenges, explained Dr Grey. What the parasite does is deviate the immune system from an effective response to one thats more suited to attacking other organisms or pathogens. Its quite cunning.

By effectively disarming its host, the parasite is doing the equivalent of replacing the weaponry of a modern army with bows and arrows.

The Australian Islet Transplantation Program funds much innovative transplant therapy work in the hope of one day finding a way for recipients to tolerate islet (insulin producing cells in the pancreas) transplants without having to take highly toxic immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives. Many people believe that effective islet transplantation offers the greatest hope for curing Type 1 diabetes, or insulin dependent diabetes.

Before applying for the grant, the Garvan and UTS teams undertook a short pilot study to test their approach. The init
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Contact: Alison Heather
a.heather@garvan.org.au
61-292-958-128
Research Australia
Source:Eurekalert

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