So, what does this mean exactly? Two scientists were studying at Australian National University (ANU) and discovered that particles once thought to only exist within the neurons of the brain also exist within the immune system. The immune system as a whole does an amazing job of targeting pathogens, but the complexity of the system gives it more room for error, which happens to be the case for people with autoimmune disorders, lymphoma, and other immunodeficiency disorders. Instead of attacking the pathogens, in some cases, the body attacks itself, resulting in side effects and slow deterioration.
In the case of lymphoma, the body circulates the cancer cells throughout the body because the cancer is located within the body’s filtration system – an effective system when cancer isn’t present. The discovery of these particles will help to target pathogenic cells, viruses, and bacteria, and eliminate them quicker than ever before. The immune system is notoriously known to be fast acting; this is apparent when after a small cut or when being around sick individuals.
As humans, some days we may come in contact (directly and/or indirectly) with thousands of other humans with different diseases, bacteria, and viruses without contracting anything. If you do, your body can eliminate the pathogen within a couple of days. If you think in terms of what the body is exposed to on a daily basis, the immune system is an incredible thing. Imagine this immune system doubling in its effectiveness and efficiency by this discovery; it’s truly mind blowing.
How Does it Work?
To help simplify the research and findings for people who don’t conduct research like this on a daily basis, the immune system works on a reward basis. Keep in mind that this is an incredibly vague overview of the complex immune system, not even merely scratching the surface. For this study, in particular, this is the knowledge you need to understand the concept. Dopamine, one of the “feel good” hormones, is given to cells in the immune system, giving them the energy to keep going. When a cell runs out of energy during an immune response, dopamine is transferred to the cell, re-energizing it.
Like a dog, the cell is being rewarded for doing a “trick”. This action of dopamine transfer was initially thought to only exist in the brain, but the study proves that cells also engage in this transfer, which is an incredible motivator for immune cells to continue their response and to, theoretically, speed it up.
Adding a Bit More Depth
Let’s start by talking about the cells that are transferring the dopamine; T cells. T cells are an incredibly important cell within the immune response and are singlehandedly responsible for the initiation and regulations of the immune response within the body by secreting different cells. These cells, along with the second type of T cells (Helper T cells) act by killing tumor cells, virally infected cells, parasites, and other infected tissues within the body. In conjunction with T cells, lymphoid tissues also aid in the response by cleaning up after the cells kill the pathogens; kind of like cleaning up a crime scene.
T cells, in essence, are the MVP of the immune responses initiation, continuation, and eventual elimination of the pathogen. Of course, there is no “I” in team, and T cells use the aid of B cells (along with MANY others) to fight off the infection and prevent it from coming back. B cells and T cells are where the research lies; more on that later. The B cells are responsible for producing antibodies to kill new foreign pathogens that enter the body and binding onto a protein. Once the B cell is bound to a protein, it creates an antibody response. Like T cells, there are two different types of B Cells; T cell dependent and T cell independent.
The T cell independent B cells can activate and work on their own, independent of T cells whereas T cell dependent B cells require activation from the T cell to begin working. The B cells that don’t need to be activated are quicker to react to immune responses, but they are less reliable and have less longevity. The B cells that require T cell activation can sometimes take days to begin working, but they are much more powerful, long lasting, and reliable than their independent counterparts.
With the research that is being conducted, it is believed that the T cell dependent B cells (the stronger and more reliable ones) would be able to be manipulated to receive more dopamine, making them stronger and quicker to react. These cells could also have their dopamine reduced to create a weaker, delayed reaction for people with autoimmune disorders. The cells used during the research were tonsil cells, which are a type of lymphatic tissue. The tonsils were taken from children who received tonsillectomies, with their consent.
The study’s findings have the impact to change the lives of people globally, using your body’s defense mechanisms.
The Potential Impact on Lymphoma, Immune Deficiencies, and Autoimmune Disorders
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph cells. Lymph cells are located in different areas throughout the body, including the bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus gland. These tissues and organs are responsible for cleaning, filtering, and disposing of dead cells and tissue that has been destroyed during immune responses. Certain forms of Lymphoma can be deadly because the cancer is spread throughout the body, overwhelming it, before it has a chance to react. With the new research, your T Cells and B Cells will involve a transfer of Dopamine, giving the cancer-fighting cells a faster response time. This means that not only will lymphomas has a lesser mortality rate; they could also have a much quicker response time and recovery rate, with less treatment required.
For individuals with autoimmune diseases and deficiencies, this research will work two different ways. For autoimmune diseases, your body is attacking itself in a certain area; rheumatoid arthritis attacks joints, multiple sclerosis attacks the brains myelin sheath. These autoimmune diseases are severe enough to cause debilitating illness to the victim. The reason autoimmune disorders are so difficult to treat is because there isn’t a way to rid your body of the pathogen causing the disease. You can’t take medicine to rid your body of the pathogen because there isn’t one it’s your body. With this research, they can lessen the dopamine transfer to make the autoimmune response less debilitating. This would mean a better quality of life for anyone suffering from autoimmune diseases.
For auto immune deficiencies, the dopamine transfer can be heightened to give the immune deficient patient a stronger immune system. Many patients are immune deficient due to certain medications, treatment, and diseases. With this research, it is expected that the immune system that is remaining, will be strong enough to fight off illnesses while undergoing treatment.
With antibiotic resistant bacteria on the rise, this research may also make an enormous impact on patient’s abilities to fight off these infections with or without the use of antibiotics.
Medical research is always being conducted, and it’s breakthroughs like these that give suffers from chronic conditions and life-threatening diseases hope for the future. As this research continues, human clinical trials will begin so patients can see the impact that this discovery could have on their lives; we await anxiously.