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by Marijana Domazet, Wednesday, July 3, 2013 | Categories: General Health

Although it is no surprise that most illnesses will affect several areas of a person’s body, it never ceases to amaze us how many illnesses that appear so dissimilar on the face of it have a shared underlying mechanism. A perfect example of that comes from a recent study, which considered the role of the BACH2 gene in autoimmune diseases.

The study, which was carried out by National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), was recently published in Nature. The key findings from this animal study indicated that mice whose BACH2 gene had been removed, exhibited inflammatory cells and died within the first months of life. However, when the researchers carried out so-called gene therapy and reinserted the same gene, then the mice’s ability to produce regulatory cells was restored, and they recovered. The findings further suggested that the role of the BACH2 gene was so vital because it acted as a regulator between CD4+T cells and regulatory T-cells. Based on this, the researchers urged for more studies to consider the role of the BACH2 gene in humans and its potential implications for future treatments.

The findings from this study appear rather robust and are in line with current knowledge as well as previous research. It is commonly known that the immune system has various cell types, which must act in unison to maintain a healthy balance. This becomes more complex when it comes to white CD4+T cells, as they can activate or constrain immune responses. In allergic and autoimmune disease, such as type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, asthma, Crohn's disease, and celiac disease, the immune responses become uncontrolled which in turn leads to the body’s own cell and tissues being attacked by their immune system. In terms of research, the results of the current study clearly extend on findings from genome-wide association studies. Specifically, past studies from diverse populations have suggested that individuals who develop allergic or autoimmune diseases often have a compromised immune system as well as minor variations in the BACH2 gene.

We agree with the researchers that more studies need to be done to fully understand the role of BACH2. Perhaps the first approach would be to consider conducting human studies. If these prove fruitful, then it would be valuable to see whether there are any current treatments for other illnesses that could affect this process. Although it may be controversial, we are inclined to say that the research should be taken a step further to consider whether there is an underlying process that affects which CD4+T cells become the cells that activate or constrain immune responses.

There is a long way until we can see the full implications of these findings. Nevertheless, they are one step in the right direction. More information can be accessed here.

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