FEB 03, 2017 8:53 AM PST

Peripheral Helper T Cells Play Surprising Role in Rheumatoid Arthritis

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

A unique new type of T cells have apparently been “hiding in plain site,” say scientists invested in studying T cell involvement in rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, characterized by inflamed joints, low energy, appetite loss, and rheumatoid nodules, hard lumps that grow under the skin near the elbow and hands.

Source: Everyday Health

Like other autoimmune diseases, RA is a result of an immune response that goes awry; instead of recognizing human cells as harmless self cells, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response against them. However, other than understanding this general process, scientists are not completely sure what causes RA.

But now a new study provides some insight into the RA mystery, thanks to the discovery of a new type of T cell: “peripheral helper” T cells (Tph). These T cells are similar to follicular helper T cells (Tfh), but they have significant genetic and functional differences. For example, Tph cells are able to travel to RA-affected joint tissue where they interact locally with B cells. Tfh cells on the other hand, only induce B cell differentiation within the lymph nodes.

The new study, from scientists at the University of Birmingham, used mass cytometry to observe Tph cells after their migration to the synovial membrane in RA-affected joints and then global transcriptomics to differentiate Tph cells from Tfh cells. The synovial membrane consists of a layer of connective tissue that lines all joints and tendon sheaths.

The study researchers found that the journey Tph cells embark on into inflamed RA tissues is regulated by unique expression of chemokine receptors, chemical immune messengers employed for a variety of immune signaling duties. The researchers came to this conclusion after observing Tph cells inducing plasma differentiation in the lab.

“Our findings imply that Tph cells are uniquely poised to promote B-cell responses and antibody production within pathologically inflamed non-lymphoid tissues, and suggest a promising novel treatment target for autoimmune disease such as RA,” explained study co-author professor Christopher Buckley.

The current research surrounding Tph cells and RA has yet to demonstrate a clear cause and effect, but a connection between Tph cells and RA is undeniable. And perhaps, scientists think, maybe Tph cells are connected to other autoimmune diseases as well.

The recent study was published in the journal Nature.

Source: University of Birmingham, PubMed Health, American College of Rheumatology, MedlinePlus.gov

About the Author
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 21, 2022
Immunology
Can Allergy Symptoms be Relieved by Treating Micronutrition Deficiencies?
JUN 21, 2022
Can Allergy Symptoms be Relieved by Treating Micronutrition Deficiencies?
New research has indicated that deficiencies in micronutrients can promote inflammation, and make the immune system more ...
JUN 25, 2022
Health & Medicine
Germs Lurking in Recreational Water and How to Avoid Them
JUN 25, 2022
Germs Lurking in Recreational Water and How to Avoid Them
The National Institute of Health published its tips for water safety in the NIH News in Health June issue. This month&rs ...
JUL 14, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
Emerging Research Could Soon Solve the Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis Challenge
JUL 14, 2022
Emerging Research Could Soon Solve the Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis Challenge
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder with symptoms that begin gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms of Parki ...
JUL 19, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
There are Genetic Links Between Gut Disorders & Alzheimer's Disease
JUL 19, 2022
There are Genetic Links Between Gut Disorders & Alzheimer's Disease
New research has found that there is a genetic connection between Alzheimer's disease and gastrointestinal disorders lik ...
AUG 21, 2022
Cancer
The Legacy of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
AUG 21, 2022
The Legacy of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Today, August 21, marks the 260th anniversary of the passing of a pioneer in the medical field.  In 1762, Lady Mary ...
SEP 01, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Common Bacterial Infection Could Lead to Colon Cancer
SEP 01, 2022
A Common Bacterial Infection Could Lead to Colon Cancer
Infections of the bacterium C. difficile can cause diarrhea and inflammation of the colon called colitis. It is estimate ...
Loading Comments...