The discovery of how the proteins in a tick’s saliva stop a human’s immune system from running amok could be the answer to treating life-threatening blood disorders, researchers say.
When a tick attaches to a human, it injects a substance that blocks immune receptors, which allows it to remain there without being rejected for up to 10 days, as it feeds on blood. Thus the ticks had found a way to evade the human immune system. These proteins that the ticks evolved can be used to inhibit a system called complement and this system can run amok in a number of diseased conditions including some life threatening blood disorders and some rare genetic kidney disorders.
Among those is one known as Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), which is life threatening and causes the immune system to attack and destroy blood cells. Thanks to this new discovery, the scientists hope this new understanding about proteins will help to bring the treatment cost down (currently $500,000 a year, per patient), as new treatments are developed.
The joint study will appears in the latest edition of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology journal.