Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system becomes misdirected to the healthy cells and tissues of the body, causing inflammation and damage. Normally, the immune system is responsible for protecting the body against “foreign invaders,” such as bacteria and viruses. However, in autoimmune disease, the immune system incorrectly views healthy tissues as foreign, leading to damage and dysfunction of the affected organs or tissues.

There are dozens of autoimmune diseases that can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, internal organs, and nervous system. Some examples include systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, etc. Treatment typically involves managing the symptoms and suppressing the immune system to prevent further damage. 

How are B cells involved in autoimmune diseases?

B cells are essential components of the body’s immune system. They manufacture specialized proteins called antibodies that circulate in the blood and bind like a lock-and-key to the surfaces of bacteria and viruses, the foreign invaders responsible for causing disease. They also recruit and encourage other immune cells to respond to the foreign invaders and to secrete factors that increase inflammation.

In autoimmune diseases, B cells may contribute to causing disease by initiating or continuing the self-directed immune response. In some cases, B cells develop receptors that mistakenly target healthy tissues and cells. Once activated, these B cells multiply and produce autoantibodies, or antibodies against self-proteins, that attack healthy cells. The disease-causing B cells may also engage other immune cell types in attacking healthy tissue. These B cells cause certain types of autoimmune diseases by perceiving healthy tissues as foreign and mounting an immune response.

Is there a cure for autoimmune diseases?

There is currently no cure for autoimmune diseases. Current treatment options for autoimmune diseases typically involve generalized immune suppression through corticosteroids as well as immunosuppressant medications and biologics. All of these current methods impair or destroy healthy B cells and/or other immune cells as well as pathogenic ones, weakening the patient’s overall immune function, potentially putting them at risk for infection and impairing their response to vaccines. In general, these drugs require long-term administration and may have life-threatening side effects. The ideal therapy in autoimmune diseases with B cell involvement would completely eliminate all disease-causing B cells with either a transient effect on the healthy immune system or by leaving the healthy immune cells intact, without requiring long-term treatment. A therapy that eliminated the disease-causing B cells with restoration of the normal immune system could enable an “immune reset,” restoring the body’s immune system to its normal function of fighting foreign invaders, not healthy tissues.

Autoimmune Diseases We Target

We have announced that we are developing T cell therapy candidates in the following disease areas:

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs primarily in young women and causes a wide range of clinical manifestations that may become life-threatening.

Pemphigus Vulgaris (PV)

PV is an autoimmune disease that causes blisters on the skin and mucous membranes.

Muscle-Specific Kinase Myasthenia Gravis (MuSK MG)

MuSK MG is an autoimmune disease that causes debilitating and life-threatening muscle weakness.

Phospholipase A2 Receptor-Associated Membranous Nephropathy (PLA2R MN)

PLA2R-associated MN is an autoimmune disease that causes nephrotic syndrome and may lead to kidney failure.

Our Cell Therapy Pipeline

DesCAARTes™ Phase 1 Trial

We are currently recruiting patients with mPV for our Phase 1 trial.

Tell Me More About the Clinical Trial

Our Technology

Interested to see behind the curtain? Find out more about our CABA™ cell therapy platform.

Learn More About Our Cell Therapy Technology