A study recently published in the journal Immunity by a group of researchers from Australia demonstrates a connection between cell death and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis.[i] A news brief written in more laymen’s language was published in Science Daily News last week.[ii]
Several years ago, scientists in the USA reviewed numerous research studies that suggested that cell death plays a role in RA. Cell death, or apoptosis, is a normal process in the life cycle of a cell where cells die, they rupture, and their contents are cleared away by other cells. In autoimmune diseases, T-cell or B-cell lymphocytes become self-reactive cells and attack the body’s own healthy tissue. [iii] Instead of dying a natural death, these self-reactive cells continue to live longer than normal causing the cycle of destruction.[iv] Problems with cell death are linked to not only autoimmune diseases, but also cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The biochemical pathways involved in the cell death processes are the target of this newly reported research which may lead to potential therapies to treat autoimmune diseases. In the recent research, two proteins called Puma and Bin were found to be important in the cell death process of self-reactive cells. Perhaps these proteins can be targeted for potential new treatments of RA and other autoimmune diseases. This could lead to a completely new line of treatments for RA since most current treatments like biological and DMARDS target the biochemical processes that lead to inflammation and tissue destruction.