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Autoimmune Diseases Decoded

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Scientists have discovered a new molecular mechanism behind some autoimmune diseases, an advance that may pave the way for new treatments against conditions caused by hyperactive immune systems. While the immune system is crucial for protecting the body from infection and disease, prolonged activation can damage healthy tissue. After its activation, the immune system is shut off by specialized immune cells known as ‘regulatory T cells’ (Treg cells), researchers said.

Understanding the development of ‘Treg cells’ is thought to be critical for combating autoimmune diseases. The development of ‘Treg cells’ in the thymus depends on super-enhancer establishment. This super enhancer establishment permits the expression of genes specific for ‘Treg cell’ development.

The study showed that Satb1 bound to the super enhancers responsible for ‘Treg cell’ development, but again, only in progenitors that differentiated into ‘Treg cells’ and not Treg cells themselves. Therefore, Satb1 may regulate the epigenetic changes that precede the creation of ‘Treg cells’.


Kitagawa Y., et al., 2017, “Guidance of regulatory T cell development by Satb1-dependent super-enhancer establishment,” Nature immunology; 18(2): 173-183. [Web Reference]

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