Discovery could help to develop new drugs to treat organ transplant and cancer patients

April 12, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Loyola researchers are reporting surprising findings about a molecule that helps ramp up the immune system in some cases and suppress it in others.

The finding eventually could lead to to regulate the by, for example, revving it up to attack or tamping it down to prevent the of transplanted organs.

The study is published online ahead of print in the Journal of Immunology. Senior author is Makio Iwashima, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Co-authors are Robert Love, MD, a professor in the Departments of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery and Microbiology & Immunology and one of the world's leading lung transplant surgeons, and first author Mariko Takami, PhD, of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

The immune system relies on a balancing act between two types of . Effector cells attack tumor cells and cells infected by viruses or bacteria. Regulatory cells suppress the immune system so that it does not attack healthy tissue. If effector cells are too active, an individual can suffer autoimmune disorders such as lupus, Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. But if regulatory cells are too active, the immune system will not be aggressive enough to protect the individual from germs and cancer.

The study involved an immune system molecule called transforming growth factor beta (TGF-ÿ). TGF-ÿ is known to be a powerful regulator of the immune response -- generally suppressing the strength of the response. In this study, however, Loyola researchers demonstrated that TGF-ÿ can amplify the immune response and result in a more effective targeted response under specific conditions.

"TGF-ÿ is a double-edged sword," Iwashima said. "It augments immune system reactions but does not determine what direction they will take. Depending on conditions, these reactions can either activate or suppress the immune system."

The study involved mouse cells grown ex vivo in laboratory dishes. The next steps will be to study TGF-ÿ in human cells and in animal models. Understanding the dual role of TGF-ÿ could help in the development of drugs to either activate or suppress the immune system, as needed, Iwashima said.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Van Kampen Cardiovascular Research Fund.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study sheds light on how body may detect early signs of cancer

July 26, 2017
Fresh insights into how cells detect damage to their DNA - a hallmark of cancer - could help explain how the body keeps disease in check.

How genetically engineered viruses develop into effective vaccines

July 26, 2017
Lentiviral vectors are virus particles that can be used as a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to fight against specific pathogens. The vectors are derived from HIV, rendered non-pathogenic, and then engineered to carry ...

Study suggests same gut bacteria can trigger different immune responses depending on environment

July 24, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the U.S. has found that one type of gut bacteria triggers different kinds of immune responses depending on the state of the environment they ...

Does your child really have a food allergy?

July 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many people misunderstand what food allergies are, and even doctors can be confused about how to best diagnose them, suggests a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

0 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.