In addition, the team showed that this micro-RNA was found in human immune cells only 18 hours after the onset of leprosy infection. The presence of the micro-RNA so early in the infection suggests it might play a role in actual disease development, the researchers said.
Further investigation of this single micro-RNA in leprosy may provide a framework for analyzing other micro-RNAs to help determine their cumulative role in regulating the immune response.
The micro-RNAs are small, and therefore it is possible to develop treatments which neutralize them, the researchers said.
"We may find that a combination of vitamin D supplementation with a genetically targeted therapy could provide an optimal treatment approach to leprosy and possibly other chronic infectious diseases," said Modlin, who also serves as vice chair for cutaneous medicine and dermatological research at UCLA and is a distinguished professor of medicine and of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics.
"Vitamin D insufficiency has been associated with a number of infectious and autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancers," Modlin added. "Our study indicates that micro-RNAs can alter human vitamin D responses and contribute to disease pathology."
Dr. Barry Bloom of Harvard University, who was not an author of this study but is part of the research team studying this field, agreed.
"Such a novel approach may be especially worth exploring in treatment of drug-resistant pathogens such as some forms of tuberculosis, where antimicrobial therapy is becoming increasingly problematic," Bloom said.
|Contact: Rachel Champeau|
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences