IKBFU: Pregnancy hormone may be used in treating autoimmune diseases

14 December 2017

At the beginning 2018, the International Immunopharmacology journal will publish an article about the role of pregnancy proteins in regulating immunological memory T cell differentiation. The study is a collaboration between the IKBFU’s Laboratory for Immunology and Cell Biotechnology, headed by Prof Larisa Litvinova, and the Institute of Microorganism Ecology and Genetics of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, headed by Prof Svetlana Zamorina and Prof Mikhail Raev.

The study focuses on the contribution of a key pregnancy hormone – human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) – to the immune reaction balance at the level of immunological memory cells.

Why is the balance so important? Essentially, it is necessary for a healthy pregnancy.

Form scientific point of view, pregnancy is immune tolerance to the antibodies of the embryo, which is in part genetically alien to the mother’s body. Fetoplacental proteins – including hCG – are key to immune tolerance.

Immunological memory means the ability of the immune system to recognise the antigen that the body has previously encountered and to launch a corresponding immune response. However, the body also has naïve cells – those that have never encountered pathogens.

The research group have assumed that hCG, which is produced by the placenta, affects both memory and naïve cells. In particular, the hormone suppresses memory cells and prevents them from rejecting the foetus.

The findings may be used in developing treatment for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

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