New survival factor for immune cells identified

June 11, 2012
Ms Eleonora Ottina and Dr Marco Herold have identified a survival factor for immune cells

(Medical Xpress) -- An international team of researchers has discovered that many of the body’s infection-fighting immune cells require a cell survival protein, called A1, to develop and function. Their finding could lead to a better understanding of conditions including leukaemia, allergy and autoimmunity.

The team discovered that without A1, called lymphocytes and granulocytes could not develop, or could not respond appropriately to infectious stimuli.

A1 is part of the Bcl-2 protein family, which controls the of cells. The research team developed a method of depleting A1 from immune cells, allowing them to study the development and function of immune cells lacking A1. The findings were published online last month in the journal Blood.

The research was jointly led by Dr. Marco Herold, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Molecular Genetics of Cancer division, and Dr. Andreas Villunger of Innsbruck Medical University, Austria, a former postdoctoral researcher at the institute. Dr. Herold, who began the research while at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, said the discovery had surprised many scientists working in the area. “For more than a decade, we have known that cell survival proteins such as Bcl-2 are important for immune cell development and function,” he said. “A1 proved more difficult to work with than other, closely related, proteins so many researchers ignored it. Our work has shown that A1 has many important roles in the immune system.”

Ms. Eleonora Ottina, a student visiting the institute from the Molecular Cell Biology and Oncology post-graduate program at Innsbruck Medical University, said the discovery had opened the door to several new fields of research into human disease. “It is well known that conditions including leukaemia, allergy, and autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, can be caused by the survival of defective or unwanted immune cells, which should normally die,” she said.

“Our research has shown that A1 is important for immune cell development and survival, and has given us the tools to deplete cells of A1 protein. We are now working to determine whether the presence of A1 in cells is necessary for the development of leukaemia, autoimmunity or allergy. If it is, depleting or functionally blocking A1 could be a new treatment for these diseases.”

Explore further: New research explains how estrogen could help protect women from cardiovascular disease

Related Stories

New research explains how estrogen could help protect women from cardiovascular disease

August 11, 2011
The sex hormone oestrogen could help protect women from cardiovascular disease by keeping the body's immune system in check, new research from Queen Mary, University of London has revealed.

New cell type offers new hope

June 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A team of Melbourne scientists has discovered a new type of cell in the immune system. Their findings could ultimately lead to the development of novel drugs that strengthen the immune response against ...

Cell death researchers identify new Achilles heel in acute myeloid leukemia

January 17, 2012
Melbourne researchers have discovered that acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer with poor prognosis, may be susceptible to medications that target a protein called Mcl-1.

Natural killers help fight human disease

November 28, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from The Australian National University have discovered a new type of cell which boosts the human body’s ability to fight off infections and life-threatening diseases.

Recommended for you

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Study reveals key molecular link in major cell growth pathway

October 19, 2017
A team of scientists led by Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising molecular link that connects how cells regulate growth with how they sense and make available the nutrients required for growth. Their work, which ...

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

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.