Many patients have written and asked WPI for further information about the recent study titled, Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells in the Duodenum of Individuals Diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Are Uniquely Immunoreactive to Antibodies to Human Endogenous Retroviral Proteins, published online in the journal In Vivo. We asked Dr. Vincent Lombardi, Research Director of WPI, to give us his answers to the following questions.
Question: How did this project come about?
Answer: Dr. DeMeirleir and I began our collaboration on this project about 17 months ago, although we have had an excellent collaborative relationship for many years. My interest in the innate immune response and his interest in gut pathology provided a perfect balance to conduct this research.
Question: I believe that this is the first tissue-study done in those with ME. Why did you choose to use gut specimens for your study?
Answer: Once Dr. DeMeirleir and I were convinced that the original infectious retroviral association was incorrect, we began to explore other possibilities that could account for some of our previous observations. We believed that the gut pathology might account for the systemic inflammation associated with ME. Additionally, individuals infected with HIV all have gut issues, as do others with diseases that are characterized by neuro-inflammation. With all the compelling evidence of the involvement of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) in inflammatory diseases like MS and lupus, it made sense to us to look in the gut. I have had a long-standing interest in plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), and once we realized that HERVs expression was present in only one type of cell, it was one of the first cell populations I suspected.
Question: What does this mean for the ME community?
Answer: We intend to take a responsible and optimistic approach to this preliminary finding and follow it up with good, solid science. For some time, my focus has been on the type I interferon response, in particular interferon producing pDCs, and their role in inflammatory cytokine production. Therefore, identifying HERVs in these cells is encouraging, but we need to do the hard work to understand what role they play. Identification of abnormalities in pDCs, which are antigen-presenting cells, certainly could be related to the autoimmune-like symptoms associated with ME. Investigating a potential relationship between autoimmunity and ME is worth further study. We intend to perform this work in collaboration with Dr. DeMeirleir and other researchers and physicians, focusing our research efforts towards a better understanding of our findings.
For the March/April issue of In Vivo, please click on the link below http://iv.iiarjournals.org/content/current
For the direct link to the manuscript, please click here http://iv.iiarjournals.org/content/27/2/177.full.pdf+html
If you would like to learn more about WPI's research program, please go to http://wpinstitute.org/research/research_overview.html