Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Excess dietary salt may drive the development of autoimmune diseases

Date:
March 6, 2013
Source:
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Summary:
Increased dietary salt intake can induce a group of aggressive immune cells that are involved in triggering and sustaining autoimmune diseases. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting pathogens. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting pathogens.

Increased dietary salt intake can induce a group of aggressive immune cells that are involved in triggering and sustaining autoimmune diseases.

This conclusion is the result of a study conducted by Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld, Prof. David Hafler (both Yale University, New Haven and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, and Harvard University, USA), PD Dr. Ralf Linker (Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital Erlangen), Professor Jens Titze (Vanderbilt University and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, FAU, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) and Professor Dominik N. Müller (Experimental and Clinical Research Center, ECRC, a joint cooperation between the Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin, and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and FAU) . In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting pathogens.

In recent decades scientists have observed a steady rise in the incidence of autoimmune diseases in the Western world. Since this increase cannot be explained solely by genetic factors, researchers hypothesize that the sharp increase in these diseases is linked to environmental factors. Among the suspected culprits are changes in lifestyle and dietary habits in developed countries, where highly processed food and fast food are often on the daily menu. These foods tend to have substantially higher salt content than home-cooked meals. This study is the first to indicate that excess salt intake may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases.

A few years ago Jens Titze showed that excess dietary salt (sodium chloride) accumulates in tissue and can affect macrophages (a type of scavenger cells) of the immune system. Independent of this study, Markus Kleinewietfeld and David Hafler observed changes in CD4 positive T helper cells (Th) in humans, which were associated with specific dietary habits. The question arose whether salt might drive these changes and thus can also have an impact on other immune cells. Helper T cells are alerted of imminent danger by the cytokines of other cells of the immune system. They activate and "help" other effector cells to fight dangerous pathogens and to clear infections. A specific subset of T helper cells produces the cytokine interleukin 17 and is therefore called Th17 for short. Evidence is mounting that Th17 cells, apart from fighting infections, play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases.

Salt dramatically boosts the induction of aggressive Th17 immune cells

In cell culture experiments the researchers showed that increased sodium chloride can lead to a dramatic induction of Th17 cells in a specific cytokine milieu. "In the presence of elevated salt concentrations this increase can be ten times higher than under usual conditions," Markus Kleinewietfeld and Dominik Müller explained. Under the new high salt conditions, the cells undergo further changes in their cytokine profile, resulting in particularly aggressive Th17 cells.

In mice, increased dietary salt intake resulted in a more severe form of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a model for multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system in which the body's own immune system destroys the insulating myelin sheath around the axons of neurons and thus prevents the transduction of signals, which can lead to a variety of neurological deficits and permanent disability. Recently, researchers postulated that autoreactive Th17 cells play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.

Interestingly, according to the researchers, the number of pro-inflammatory Th17 cells in the nervous system of the mice increased dramatically under a high salt diet. The researchers showed that the high salt diet accelerated the development of helper T cells into pathogenic Th17 cells. The researchers also conducted a closer examination of these effects in cell culture experiments and showed that the increased induction of aggressive Th17 cells is regulated by salt on the molecular level. "These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no known cure," said Ralf Linker, who as head of the Neuroimmunology Section and Attending Physician at the Department of Neurology, University Hospital Erlangen, seeks to utilize new laboratory findings for the benefit of patients.

Besides multiple sclerosis, Dominik Müller and his colleagues want to study psoriasis, another autoimmune disease with strong Th17 components. The skin, as Jens Titze recently discovered, also plays a key role in salt storage and affects the immune system. "It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake," the researchers said. "However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors," the immunologist Markus Kleinewietfeld said. "Therefore, only further studies under less extreme conditions can show the extent to which increased salt intake actually contributes to the development of autoimmune diseases."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Markus Kleinewietfeld, Arndt Manzel, Jens Titze, Heda Kvakan, Nir Yosef, Ralf A. Linker, Dominik N. Muller, David A. Hafler. Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature11868

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Excess dietary salt may drive the development of autoimmune diseases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306134358.htm>.
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. (2013, March 6). Excess dietary salt may drive the development of autoimmune diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306134358.htm
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Excess dietary salt may drive the development of autoimmune diseases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130306134358.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) — As a third American missionary is confirmed to have contracted Ebola in Liberia, doctors on the ground in West Africa fear they're losing the battle against the outbreak. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — When Facebook acquired the virtual reality hardware developer Oculus VR in March for $2 billion, CEO Mark Zuckerberg hailed the firm's technology as "a new communication platform." Duration: 02:24 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Circuitry of Cells Involved in Immunity, Autoimmune Diseases Exposed: Connections Point to Interplay Between Salt and Genetic Factors

Mar. 6, 2013 — New work expands the understanding of how Th17 cells develop, and how their growth influences the development of immune responses. By figuring out how these cells are "wired," the ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins