Wasting Syndrome (Cachexia)

Cachexia is the dramatic weight loss and muscle atrophy seen in patients with chronic illness including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV, cancer, and in individuals with age-associated ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome.

AIDS & Other Infectious DiseasesWeight loss in these serious illnesses is unintentional, and is a pathological process that accompanies the primary disease. Cachexia causes dramatic loss of skeletal muscle and eventually leads to immobility. In cancer patients, cachexia is associated with a decreased response to therapy and a poor prognosis. The exact mechanism that causes cachexia is unknown, and although there are many drugs in development to treat cachexia, they are not directed at a common pathway. Treatments aimed at interrupting or reversing cachexia are urgently needed to increase survival and to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses.

Scientists at Torrey Pines Institute are leading the way in uncovering the underlying mechanisms that cause cachexia. Recently, they identified a novel subset of immune cells involved in regulating cachexia, and have shown for the first time that the cell subset is lost in animal models of cancer- and diabetes-related cachexia, and that replacing the cells can slow down disease progression.

Principal Investigators are working on the following challenges in the area of Cachexia:

  • Understanding how a novel type of immune T cell can protect from cachexia.
  • Developing therapeutic strategies to treat cachexia by infusing cells into animals with disease-induced cachexia.