Researchers have identified a protein, called NALP5, which opens new possibilities of understanding both APS-1 - a rare hereditary disease where the immune system attacks the body's own organs - and other autoimmune disorders.
NALP5 constitutes the target for the immune system's attacks on the parathyroid glands in the disease APS-1.
AdvertisementThis discovery allows researchers to understand the first phase of autoimmune disorders in general, where immune cells, instead of attacking alien bacteria and viruses, erroneously attack the body's own tissue.
NALP5 not only functions as a target for the immune cells in humans, but also in animal models for the disease that have the same genetic defect as APS-1 patients.
"This means now, for the first time, in an experimental situation we will be able to compare the immune defence with exactly the same target protein in humans and in an animal model," said Mohammad AliMohammadi at the Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, who made the discovery.
The parathyroid glands, which were discovered in 1879 by scientists at Uppsala University, regulate the body's calcium balance and are the most recently described anatomical structures in humans.
The fact that NALP5 was discovered in the parathyroid glands boosts understanding of their functions.
In the future, this discovery can pave the way to develop drugs and treatment methods for diseases producing disturbances in the calcium balance, such as osteoporosis.
NALP5 also makes it possible to diagnose the disease early, so that patients can receive the appropriate treatment.
The finding is being published in the journal The New England Journal of Medicine.