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Children's Researchers Solve Long-Standing Riddle in Immunology

December 13, 2005

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 Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

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