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Halofuginone Could Be Useful Against Autoimmune Disorders

Compound inhibits development of Th17 cells thought to play role in autoimmune inflammation

FRIDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- The compound halofuginone -- derived from hydrangea root -- could hold potential in treating some autoimmune disorders, according to research published June 5 in Science.

Mark S. Sundrud, Ph.D., of the Harvard Medical School and Immune Disease Institute in Boston, and colleagues write that naive T cells can differentiate into pro-inflammatory Th17 cells. These are linked to the development of autoimmune inflammation, and Th17 cytokines such as IL-17 are also linked to autoimmune disorders. Halofuginone inhibited the development of Th17 cells from mouse CD4+ T cells without affecting Th1, Th2, or induced T regulatory differentiation.

In mice, halofuginone treatment reduced the severity and incidence of a type of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis associated with Th17 cells in central nervous system tissue, but didn't have this effect in a different type of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. The researchers found that halofuginone appears to inhibit the development of Th17 cells in mice and humans by activating the amino acid starvation response. Reducing certain amino acids in differentiating T cell cultures also impaired Th17 cell development.

"These results highlight a novel link between the amino acid starvation response pathway and inflammatory T cell function and also reveal halofuginone as an attractive candidate for therapeutic intervention in autoimmune and inflammatory pathologies linked to IL-17 production," the authors conclude.

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