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What B cells can tell us about certain cancers and autoimmune

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					Alison Heather
Tel: +61 (2) 9295 8128




What B cells can tell us about certain cancers and autoimmune diseases

23 November, 2009


By studying blood samples from patients recovering from bone marrow transplants,
Australian scientists have been able to extract information that could help us fight certain
cancers and autoimmune diseases.


B cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies, start their development in the bone
marrow and complete it in peripheral blood and tissues. The developmental process in
humans can be easily studied in people who have had their bone marrow destroyed and
then reconstituted from donors, because clinical samples are collected at defined periods
of time following the transplant.


PhD student Santi Suryani and Dr Stuart Tangye from the Garvan Institute of Medical
Research have identified an important checkpoint in the development process, where the
body gets rid of rogue B cells which see ‘self’ as the enemy and so allow the body to
attack itself – as in autoimmune diseases such as lupus.


Their findings, which describe a ‘molecular signature’, or fingerprint, for B cells at this
crucial stage of development are now online in the international journal Blood.


“By identifying exactly where B cells are in their stage of development, you can better
understand and target specific B cell diseases” said Dr Tangye.


“Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, for instance, may be a malignancy of the B cell subset
we’ve described. As we now know what the normal counterpart of the diseased B cell
looks like, we are in a position to learn more about that type of leukemia.”


“In the case of lupus, an autoimmune disease where antibodies are produced that
recognise self DNA, there seems to be a problem getting rid of the self-reactive B cells - at
this point of the development process.”



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“We will get to the stage where we know which genes are expressed in populations of cells
at every phase of B cell development, allowing us to catalogue the subsets of cells.”


This knowledge should help us identify more specific therapeutic targets that will improve
the treatment of diseases resulting from self-reactive or malignant B cells.


ABOUT GARVAN
The Garvan Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1963.           Initially a research department of St
Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, it is now one of Australia's largest medical research institutions with nearly 500
scientists, students and support staff. Garvan’s main research programs are: Cancer, Diabetes & Obesity,
Immunology and Inflammation, Osteoporosis and Bone Biology, and Neuroscience. The Garvan’s mission is
to make significant contributions to medical science that will change the directions of science and medicine
and have major impacts on human health. The outcome of Garvan’s discoveries is the development of better
methods of diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, prevention of disease.


MEDIA ENQUIRIES
Alison Heather
Science Communications Manager
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
+61 2 9295 8128
+61 434 071 326
a.heather “at” garvan.org.au




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