A new year brings opportunities to reflect and make decisions to produce more success and happiness. These include New Year resolutions about stopping unhealthy habits and replacing with new healthy ones. Whether the goal is to eat more spinach or spend less time playing games on android phones, many will embark on changes aimed to reach health goals. There are new and emerging therapies that can help many who are struggling with medical issues to reach their health goals for the New Year. Developments such as in immunotherapy are changing the way medicine is practiced. It also provides new approaches that help our natural defense mechanisms lead us to healthier states.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease where a person’s own immune system attacks the body’s healthy tissues, leading to damage in different organs. Although the exact cause of SLE is not known, this disorder features hyperactive T cells and B cells. Specific laboratory tests that directly diagnose SLE are lacking. Diagnosis is commonly achieved by identifying the presence of a variety of signs and symptoms that can occur with the disease, but not specific for it.
Boosting the body’s natural defense against diseases such as cancer (immunotherapy) is an ever-developing area of medical science that has demonstrated success. An example of this is the use of antibodies to treat various types of cancer. These antibodies work in a number of ways including helping the immune system to attack cancer cells as well as affecting the integrity of cancer tissue, among others. However, not all patients with cancer respond to this treatment approach equally. Some may even experience further progression despite treatment. Therefore, there is a great need for a reliable method to monitor patient response to immunotherapy.
Helminth (parasitic worm) infection continues to pose health threats to people worldwide. The immune system (the body’s natural defense) plays an important role in fighting helminth infections. A key component of this immune function is the dendritic cell. Dendritic cells process and present disease-causing invaders to the immune system cells that can act to destroy or eliminate them. Dendritic cells are messengers between the two types of immune systems innate (rapid nonspecific immune response) and adaptive (specialized response). Given this function, dendritic cells are often referred to as “professional” antigen-presenting cells.
McMaster University researchers discovered how an RNA-binding protein regulates self-renewal capacity of cord blood stem cells.
Human umbilical cord blood was once discarded as medical waste, but is now known to be a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Cord blood stem cells can be potentially used in the treatment of various diseases of the blood, including cancer and other genetic disorders. However, as with other HSC sources, the total number of functional and engraftable stem cells still remains the limiting variable that strongly impacts transplantation success. Identifying methods for robust expansion of HSCs is necessary to generate an inexhaustible source of stem cells for use in regenerative medicine.