A path-breaking discovery made by an international team of researchers may just be the key to new avenues in the development of new treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and asthma.
They have identified a new type of immune cell that can be out of control in certain inflammatory diseases and worsen symptoms.
The new cell called Th22 is a kind of T-helper cell. These are white blood cells that help to activate other immune cells when the body is infected by a pathogen, such as a virus or bacterium. They also control inflammation in the body to help fight off infection.
The research team from Imperial College London, the Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata in Rome and the Centre of Allergy and Environment have found that
Th22 cells play a special role in overseeing and coordinating immune cells that cause inflammation.
In chronic and allergic inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and allergic eczema, Th22 cells appear to be malfunctioning, leading to excessive inflammation, which can worsen symptoms.
The researchers hope that it may ultimately be possible to treat chronic skin and possibly also airway diseases by targeting Th22 cells with new drugs.
"We are seeing an increase in chronic diseases like skin and airway disease because of changes in people's lifestyles," said Dr Carsten Schmidt-Weber, one of the lead authors of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London.
"These diseases can have a big impact on people's lives and patients can face a constant battle to keep their symptoms at bay.
"We are very excited about discovering this new subset of T-helper cells, as we believe it could provide a new target for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases in the future," Schmidt-Weber added.
The study appears in Journal of Clinical Investigation.