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February 10, 1995 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-02-10

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undergoing small-scale trials in
Belgium. The scientists found
that vaccinating with too many
attenuated cells might aggravate
and not cure the disease — a
warning that dosages for human
T-cell therapy must be carefully
In a second discovery guided
by the model, the researchers
showed that, contrary to what
might be expected, injecting large
quantities of untreated disease-
causing T cells into an animal
can depress rather than aggra-
vate an already existing autoim-
mune condition. This finding
could help explain why individ-
uals who experience an acute T
cell-mediated autoimmune at-
tack, such as those occurring in
multiple sclerosis, may subse-
quently enjoy a long remission or
even recovery.
In designing their model, Pro-
fessor Segel and Ms. Jaeger used
what they call a "reverse engi-
neering" approach — reproduc-
ing several of the most
fundamental aspects of autoim-
mune disease and T-cell vacci-
nation, while ignoring the
detailed operation of the immune
system. A simple pair of mathe-
matical equations culd then be
constructed describing the pro-
liferation of disease-causing, or
effector, cell populations and of
other cell populations which reg-
ulate effector cell proliferation —
and are, in turn, influenced by

In fact, 80 percent
never developed the

The model correctly describes
major aspects of autoimmune
disease, namely, that a relative-
ly lame dose of effector cells leads
to disease; a suitably smaller dose
of these cells leads to vaccination;
and once the animal is vaccinat-
ed, the same dose that would pre-
viously have led to disease no
longer does so.
"But," Professor Cohen says,
"what's the point of just repro-
ducing known results? The an-
swer is that once you build the
little mathematical machine that
reproduces the known results,
the machine takes on a 'mind of
its own' and does other things as
well, such as suggesting the dis-
coveries that were found in solid
animal experimentation."
To test the predictions of this
model, Professor Cohen and
colleagues studied the develop-
ment of juvenile diabetes in a
strain of mice that spontaneous-
ly develop this disease, with sug-
ar levels in the blood of the
animals soaring at about 15
weeks of age. The Weizmann im-
munologists found that injecting
one to five million effector cells


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