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Researchers search for culprit behind dry eyes, mouths and more
Date:11/21/2011

Researchers want to find the main culprit behind the dry, irritated eyes, mouth, throat, skin, nose and more afflicting 1-3 percent of the population.

It's called Sjgren's syndrome, a painful condition affecting moisture production that takes an average of 6.5 years to diagnose and is difficult to treat. Georgia Health Sciences University researchers say learning more about how it develops should improve diagnosis and treatment.

"We want to identify the early events just after onset of the disease so it can be diagnosed more quickly," said Dr. Rafal Pacholczyk, immunologist in the GHSU Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine. "Knowing more about how the disease unfolds also will help us identify more targeted ways to treat it."

Armed with a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, he's using a variety of mouse models to parse how the immune system begins to attack saliva, tear and other moisture-producing glands. Sjgren's blocks receptors that activate one or more of these glands, impeding messages from the brain to make tears or saliva. Gland cells also can be destroyed. A key question is which immune cells are to blame for the friendly fire.

It's the dendritic cells that scour the body for invaders, typically taking their finds to the draining lymph nodes to show T cells. Effector T cells can then initiate an attack, such as prompting B cell production of antibodies that, in this case, block receptors and attack cells. Regulatory T cells are supposed to prevent the attack on "self" tissues that occurs in autoimmune diseases such as Sjgren's. Still unidentified genes likely increase disease risk; environmental factors such as an infection may pull the trigger.

Pacholczyk is tracking T cell development in mice that start to develop Sjgren's by 8-10 weeks of age, trying to determine what causes the cells to become harmful.

He wants to identify the T cell receptors that distinguish self fr
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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