Two recent papers by Oxford researchers have shown that studying lymph nodes reveals details of the mechanisms of autoimmunity.
Autoimmunity affects up to 10 per cent of people and includes conditions such as types of diabetes and thyroid diseases. More recently, a group of conditions has been identified in which the central nervous system is affected by autoantibodies, which are made by our immune systems.
The generation of autoimmunity often occurs in the body’s lymph nodes. However, typically blood has been examined to infer lymph node function, mainly as lymph nodes are less easily accessible. In fact, to date the role of lymph nodes has not been directly studied in humans with autoantibodies.
In two parallel studies, supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, the researchers sampled lymph nodes in the neck, which are thought to drain the central nervous system, in patients with autoantibodies that affect their spine and brain.
Studying the lymph nodes revealed immunological findings which were very different to those revealed by blood. Lymph node sampling was more accurate in identifying the mechanisms by which the autoantibodies were produced and better correlated with the clinical efficacy of treatments administered to the patients.
“These studies open up avenues to better and more accurately study the immune system of patients with autoimmunity, presenting insights into their biology and therapeutics,” said Professor Sarosh Irani, an author on both papers.
The two papers are: