Scientists discover new 'off switch' in immune response

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have discovered a new 'off switch' in our immune response which could be boosted in diseases caused by over-activation of our immune system, or blocked to improve vaccines. The findings are published this week in the journal Nature Communications. The research was funded by Health Research Board, Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.

The research team, led by Dr Anne McGettrick and Professor Luke O'Neill, at the Trinity Institute, have discovered that a protein, called TMED7, can shut down part of our immune system once an infection has been eliminated. "Without stop signals like TMED7 our immune system would continue to rage out of control long after the infection has been cleared, leading to diseases such as ," says Dr Anne McGettrick. Manipulating these stop signals could help dampen down our immune system to prevent it attacking our own bodies.

In certain cases, removing stop signals and boosting our immune system can be advantageous. Several diseases such as Malaria and HIV are lacking good vaccines and research laboratories and drug companies around the world are looking to solve this problem. One major issue facing is the fact that our immune systems do not mount a strong enough to the , causing the vaccine to be ineffective. TMED7 limits a key process needed for vaccines to work involving a protein called TLR4. "Removing TMED7 from our cells could help boost our immune response to vaccines thus making the vaccines much more effective," says Dr Sarah Doyle, lead author on the publication.

TMED7 is part of a family of proteins and it is the first member of this family to be implicated in regulating our immune system. Interestingly, it is conserved through evolution and a version in fruit flies called logjam acts similarly to TMED7, limiting anti-bacterial responses. Further research will reveal if other members of this family play key roles in immunity, and this could lead to exciting new prospects for understanding our . The research was carried out in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

Related Stories

Modified vaccine shows promise in preventing malaria

Sep 26, 2011

Continuing a global effort to prevent malaria infections, Michigan State University researchers have created a new malaria vaccine – one that combines the use of a disabled cold virus with an immune system-stimulating ...

Discovery of new vaccine approach for treatment of cancer

Dec 21, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, have developed a new vaccine to treat cancer at the pre-clinical level. The research team led by Professor Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental ...

Chemotherapy might help cancer vaccines work

May 16, 2008

Chemotherapy given in conjunction with cancer vaccines may boost the immune system’s response, potentially improving the effectiveness of this promising type of cancer therapy, according to a study by researchers in the ...

Recommended for you

Could trophoblasts be the immune cells of pregnancy?

4 hours ago

Trophoblasts, cells that form an outer layer around a fertilized egg and develop into the major part of the placenta, have now been shown to respond to inflammatory danger signals, researchers from Norwegian University of ...

Moms of food-allergic kids need dietician's support

11 hours ago

Discovering your child has a severe food allergy can be a terrible shock. Even more stressful can be determining what foods your child can and cannot eat, and constructing a new diet which might eliminate entire categories ...

Multiple allergic reactions traced to single protein

22 hours ago

Johns Hopkins and University of Alberta researchers have identified a single protein as the root of painful and dangerous allergic reactions to a range of medications and other substances. If a new drug can ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.