Newly published NIH-funded research stemming from earlier work funded by the Lupus Research Institute discovered that the protein PTEN known to stop tumors from forming also helps prevent autoimmune diseases by stopping the immune system from reacting. The recent work provides a new direction for research into better treatments for lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Hongbo Chi at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital explains how the initial study funded by an LRI Novel Research Grant opened the door to his current work:
“We were able to identify the molecular pathways that impact the function of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Tregs are a unique population of white blood cells that helps to maintain immune system balance and keep inflammation in control. Loss of function of Tregs has been implicated in the development of lupus, but the control mechanism has been elusive.” Until now.
"In humans we know that loss of PTEN leads to tumors. This new study highlights another role and shows that PTEN is also crucial for proper functioning of regulatory T cells and prevention of autoimmune diseases," said Dr. Chi. "In mice, the loss of just one copy of the PTEN gene in regulatory T cells is sufficient to set the stage for autoimmune problems."