Scientists at Cardiff University have successfully created new cells from cheek lining tissue which could offer the answer to problems affecting the immune system. Immunity protects against many diseases, but can also be harmful. When organs are transplanted, the immune system kicks in and can cause the body to reject the organs. Also diabetes can develop when the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells.
A team from Cardiff's School of Dentistry, with colleagues from Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, have found a new group of cells with a powerful ability to suppress the immune system's action.
The team took oral lining cells from the insides of patients' cheeks and cloned them. Laboratory tests showed that even small doses of the cells could completely inhibit the lymphocytes - the white blood cells that attack the body's systems.
The breakthrough suggests that the cheek cells have wide-ranging potential for treating immune system-related diseases.
– Dr Lindsay Davies
At this stage, these are only laboratory results. We have yet to recreate the effect outside the laboratory and any treatments will be many years away. However, these cells are extremely powerful and offer promise for combating a number of diseases.
The team has now been funded by the Medical Research Council to investigate the cloned cells further, with the hope that the treatment can but used by patients in the future.