In a study that suggests a new frontier in immunology, scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ-SOM) report on evidence that shows human blood contains thousands of autoantibodies that bind specifically to antigens from organs and tissues all over the body and act to clear cellular debris that results from injury and disease.
The study, which appears in the April 2 edition of PLoS ONE, also notes that autoantibody profiles are unique to individuals and remarkably stable over time, and are influenced by the person's age, gender and the presence of disease.
Using human protein microarrays, the researchers examined the immune-response profiling of 166 individuals, including subject groups of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer patients. Among the study's startling findings:
"Our previous studies showed that it is possible to identify changes in the autoantibody profile to accurately diagnose both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases," said Robert Nagele, PhD, director of the Biomarker Discovery Center at UMDNJ-SOM and the study's corresponding author. "This research supports our proposal that autoantibody profiles will be useful as diagnostic biomarkers for a wide variety of diseases."
Advances in protein microarray technology helped to make this type of research possible, but still has limits, the study's authors acknowledge. The arrays used in this study contained nearly 9,500 distinct human antigens, but that is only a fraction of the estimated size of the entire human proteome.
"Given the evidence supporting an abundance of autoantibodies, it is probable that there are even more naturally occurring autoantibodies than we were able to detect here," Nagele said. "The complex profile of autoantibodies suggests that they carry out an essential function, and the clearance of debris generated by the body on a day-to-day basis is a reasonable bet."
Materials provided by University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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