Children's Researchers Solve Long-Standing Riddle in Immunology

Researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and the University of Washington School of Medicine have made a discovery in cell research that could have important implications for the treatment of lymphomas, autoimmune diseases and transplantation. The study will be published in the December issue of Immunity (Cell Press).


Researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and the University of Washington School of Medicine have made a discovery in cell research that could have important implications for the treatment of lymphomas, autoimmune diseases and transplantation. The study will be published in the December issue of Immunity (Cell Press).

The researchers identified a crucial trigger that activates a pathway in T and B cells which leads to the survival and growth of cells.

“By identifying how this pathway controls the survival and production of cells, we may be able to eventually create drugs that specifically block the pathway and slow the production of cancerous cells,” said lead researcher Dr. David Rawlings, head of Children’s Hospital Section of Immunology and professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

T and B cells are types of white blood cells that are an integral part of the body’s defenses against infection. These cells work together within the immune system to make antibodies or to directly attack bacteria and viruses. Over-activity of B cells also causes many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and produces tumors in patients with Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s disease.

“We have shown that this pathway activates the production of normal B cells. We are now directly testing whether it also controls survival of some forms of B-cell lymphoma,” said Dr. Rawlings. “If so, this could lead to the development of less toxic drugs that could slow or stop the production of these abnormal cells.”

“These results also may impact pharmaceutical development for other types of cancers, autoimmune diseases and various forms of transplantation where T or B cells are overproduced or overactive,” added Dr. Rawlings.

The study is available online at http://www.cell.com/immunity/abstract/S1074-7613%2805%2900310-9 and will be printed in the Dec. 14, 2005 edition of Immunity.

About Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s Hospital, Foundation and Research Institute together deliver superior patient care, advance new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s Hospital specializes in meeting the unique physical, emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, and emergency and outreach services to families from around the world.

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention, bioethics and much more.

Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association work together to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care, clinical care and research. The foundation receives nearly 80,000 gifts each year, from lemonade stand proceeds to corporate sponsorships. Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association is the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, serving as the umbrella organization for 450 groups of people who turn an activity they love into a fundraiser. Support from the foundation and guild association makes it possible for Seattle Children’s care and research teams to improve the health and well-being of all kids.

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