Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Rogue Molecules Trigger Autoimmunity

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A research team has filmed the actual moment that can change the body’s response to a dying cell. Importantly, they say, this “Great Escape” moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger for autoimmune diseases like arthritis.

The research team, led by Prof Benjamin Kile from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), filmed the exact moment when DNA escapes out of mitochondria during cell death ( Mitochondria are organelles inside cells that produce energy. They are essential to keep cells alive, but when damaged they can trigger the body’s own immune system with potentially devastating consequences.

Because the DNA inside mitochondria (mtDNA) has many similarities with bacterial DNA (they share a common ancestry), the body reacts to its presence outside the mitochondria or the cell as if it is under attack from invading pathogens. It is a similar failure to distinguish self from non-self that underlies inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

While the release of mtDNA is thought to contribute to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, how it escapes from the mitochondria has never been explained. Monash researcher Dr Kate McArthur, while completing her PhD at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, used a revolutionary new microscope at the Janelia...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.