Braverman Reproductive Immunology Scientists Attend the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Immunologists

Posted By Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology || 3-Jun-2016

Recently, two members of our research team, Dr. Darren Ritsick and Dr. Nadera Mansouri-Attia attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) in Seattle, Washington. The AAI is one of the world’s leading immunology organizations with over 8,000 members from almost 70 countries and the meeting was attended by several hundred scientists and physicians from around the world.

Over 5 days, Drs. Ritsick and Mansouri-Attia had the opportunity to attend seminars and poster sessions and converse with other scientists about the most recent scientific and technological advances in the field of immunology. Many of the most interesting talks presented during the meeting can be grouped into the following categories:

· Functional roles for regulatory T (Treg) cells

  • Treg cells have a critical role in establishing a maintaining immunological tolerance to paternal antigens associated with the fetus, thereby preventing its rejection by the maternal immune system. They also play several other critical roles, including preventing autoimmunity. While the role of Treg cells in maintaining immunological tolerance in many contexts is now well recognized, the mechanisms by which they accomplish this are still very much a subject of intense research. Several presentations at this meeting shed new light on suppressive functions for Treg cells. These included new studies on mechanisms for Treg cell suppression of B cell proliferation and antibody production, as well as a new function for Treg cells in stripping antigens from the surface of antigen-presenting cells (a process known as transendocytosis) thereby inhibiting their ability to activate effector T cells.

· Immunometabolism

  • The field of immunometabolism – the study of the interaction of metabolism with immune system function – has been rapidly emerging over the last few years. Findings from this field have broad implications for understanding how diet and drugs affecting metabolic function can be used to manipulate immune responses. Many presentations during this meeting were focused on the differential roles of glucose and fatty acid metabolism in regulating T cell activity and inflammation and how this is affected by local microenvironments. These studies are particularly relevant to understanding how metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and PCOS, affect the maternal immune response to the embryo, and how dietary changes and treatments such as Intralipid and metformin can be used to modulate this.

· Neuroinflammation and autism

  • There were also several presentations on the role of neuroinflammation in the development of neurological disorders. It is known that IL-17 producing cells, including Th17 cells, can regulate B cell activation leading to the initiation and increase of neuroinflammation involved in multiple sclerosis. Similarly, a role for IL-17 neurotoxicity has now been shown in the development of autism. One very elegant study in mice presented at the conference clearly demonstrated that the presence of elevated levels of maternal IL-17 during pregnancy can alter brain development leading to the development of autism related behavior in offspring.

· New immunomodulatory treatments

  • There were also many presentations on the development of new immunological therapies and studies on new roles or mechanisms of action for existing therapies. This included several studies on B cell-depleting drugs such as rituximab. New drugs capable of interfering with IL-17-mediated inflammation were also presented at the conference, including VTP-43742 which interferes with the production of IL-17 and is currently in phase 2 trials for psoriasis.

The field of immunology is highly complex and rapidly evolving and concepts once accepted as dogma are constantly being overturned by new paradigm-shifting research. The subfield of reproductive immunology is no exception to this and unfortunately many concepts of reproductive immunology that were developed decades ago and since proven outdated, irrelevant, or just plain wrong are still in clinical use. Effective and safe practice of clinical reproductive immunology can only be carried out by clinicians that are constantly absorbing the latest research advances in immunology by relentlessly reviewing the vast immunology literature, attending meetings, and engaging with other immunologists.

Our Research Department is not only dedicated to keeping up with the fast-moving field of immunology, but is also continually evaluating our own data to drive further advances in the practice clinical reproductive immunology. In the month of June, Drs. Ritsick and Mansouri-Attia will also be attending the 13th Congress of the International Society for Immunology of Reproduction (ISIR) in Erfurt, Germany where they will present our latest data showing the role for IL-17 producing CD8+ T cells, NKT cells, and NK cells in infertility, implantation failure, and pregnancy complications including miscarriage. Later, in July, Dr. Mansouri-Attia will also be travelling to attend the 2016 meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Helsinki, Finland where she will present our latest data regarding the role for Treg cells in pregnancy success or failure and the effects of our immune treatment protocols on regulating these cells.

We will update you with all of the exciting research advances presented at these meetings and how we plan to continue to apply these advances to the development of new diagnostic, monitoring, and therapeutic approaches to provide each of our patients with tailored approaches to achieving successful pregnancies.

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