Turning Off Your Immune System
How to prevent too much of a good thing?
The headlines are filled with the fear of COVID or how to boost your immune system against it. Both deserve time on the air, but sometimes our immune system overdoes it and causes damage rather than helping. I am not just acknowledging cytokine storm in COVID, but actually pointing out the effects of autoimmune disease on individuals and society. Just the one autoimmune disease we call type 1 diabetes affects 1.6 million Americans and costs 14.4 billion dollars annually.
So what does one do when the defense force is the guilty party causing harm to our organs. Type I diabetes occurs when the islets cells of our pancreas, which produce insulin for glucose control, are killed off by a misdirected immune system. Patients are left needing injected insulin to maintain life.
At first, you might say, just turn off the immune system. Well, by the time the diabetes is discovered, the majority of the damage has occurred and insufficient cells are left to provide the needed insulin. Even if you could turn down or turn off the immune system, you are left with the downside of a weak immune system unable to either kill microbial invaders or identify and destroy cancer cells lurking in the body.
Researchers in this study addressed both of these obstacles with experiments in mice with type 1 diabetes. They were able to transplant stem-cell-derived insulin producing cells into mice and prevent the mouse’s immune system from attacking these cells like they had done before. After modifying the cells to be more “energetic” and grow on a 3D plate simulating pancreas tissue, they worked on protecting the cells from the mouse’s immune system.
By inducing the cells to make a checkpoint protein called PD-L1, they made the immune system ignore these cells. A checkpoint protein is a cell protein which turns on or off an immune process. If they can replicate this in humans one day, type 1 diabetes patients could receive a transplant of these cells without needing immunosuppressive drugs with their side effects. Type 1 diabetics could become free of the need for multiple daily doses of injected insulin.
Functional medicine works to prevent autoimmune disease from occurring in the first place by identify risk factors, removing triggers, and then lowering immune responses with natural therapies. Sometimes, damage has already occurred and limited repair can be accomplished. For this reason, we need ongoing conventional medicine research in areas like autoimmune disease. Little viruses like COVID 19 are not the only challenge for 2020 and Beyond. We have many immune challenges to face some needing more immunity, some needing less.
Eiji Yoshihara, Carolyn O’Connor, Emanuel Gasser, Zong Wei, Tae Gyu Oh, Tiffany W. Tseng, Dan Wang, Fritz Cayabyab, Yang Dai, Ruth T. Yu, Christopher Liddle, Annette R. Atkins, Michael Downes, Ronald M. Evans. Immune-evasive human islet-like organoids ameliorate diabetes. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2631-z
Thanks to Science Daily
Salk Institute. “First immune-evading cells created to treat type 1 diabetes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200819110923.htm>.