New Molecular Control Points for Treating Autoimmunity


  • Karen E. Hedin, Ph.D.

Project description

Dr. Hedin's lab uses state-of-the-art biochemical and genetic laboratory approaches to identify molecular control points (signaling pathways) in immune cells and cancer cells. While studying signaling pathways linked to a protein called CXCR4, the lab made an exciting discovery: The researchers found that CXCR4 connects to and regulates functions of a specific protein, PLC-beta 3. PLC-beta 3 appears to control regulatory T cells (Tregs), and thus might be important for controlling autoimmunity.

In collaboration with and funded by the Center for Immunology and Immune Therapies, the lab is examining mice with genetically modified PLC-beta 3. The team has confirmed its earlier findings, identified the detailed molecular network that explains how PLC-beta 3 controls Treg functions, and showed that PLC-beta 3 regulates human and mouse Tregs in a similar manner.

Currently, the team is testing the role of PLC-beta 3 in controlling autoimmune diseases in mice. In addition, Mayo Clinic patient sample resources are key for furthering this research.

Impact on patient care

Therapies to increase the numbers and effectiveness of Tregs may be helpful for treating autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and others. Unfortunately, no such drugs exist, nor is it currently clear how to create them. It is not even clear how the body normally increases the numbers of Tregs. Dr. Hedin's research is aimed at answering this question, the first step to developing Treg-based therapies for immune diseases.


These discoveries and advances were made through the generous support of an anonymous donor.