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January 11, 2019

A new cell type may hold the key to treating autoimmune disease

A research team led by Jessica A. Hamerman, PhD, at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), has discovered a unique type of cell and its association with a life-threatening complication of viral and autoimmune diseases. The team’s discovery, published in the journal Science, could lead to new treatments for a deadly form of inflammation in children with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA), malaria and Kawasaki disease, as well as patients with lupus.

Hamerman’s team found a unique type of cell, which they termed inflammatory hemophagocytes (iHPCs), that eat red blood cells in macrophase activation syndrome (MAS) and malaria. The research team was able to show that the iHPCs develop under the influence of two specific proteins that recognize infection and are associated with autoimmune disease.

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