Immune system 'on switch' breakthrough could lead to new targeted drugs

Immune system 'on switch' breakthrough could lead to new targeted drugs
Crucial ‘on switch’ that boosts body’s defences against infections discovered by scientists

A crucial 'on switch' that boosts the body's defences against infections has been successfully identified in new scientific research.

The breakthrough made by researchers at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Dundee could lead to the development of new drugs to enhance the body's immune responses to attack, which could benefit people suffering from cancer and other serious conditions.

Their findings have been published in the Journal of Molecular and Cell Biology.

"We have shown that the cells which turn on our immune responses to defend against, for example, infectious diseases, require a particular protein to activate them in order to function properly," explains Dr Martin-Granados formerly of the University of Aberdeen and now at Cambridge.

"This protein, or enzyme, (PTP1B) effectively acts as a kind of 'on switch' and if it is missing or dysfunctional in our body, we cannot mount effective immune responses to tumours or infections."

The paper describes the fine tuning of cell signals which orchestrate our , for instance when we are vaccinated against infections.

Dr Alan Prescott from the University of Dundee adds: "The key switch molecule PTP1B allows the uninterrupted production of something called podosomes (which behave like feet for the cell). The cells that turn on our immune systems (dendritic cells) use these "mini-feet" to move though tissue and "home in" on a type of white blood cell called a T cell, which are essential for clearing viruses from our system. These are located at the "glands", such as those in our neck, which become enlarged when patients get throat infections, for example.

PTP1B is increased in obesity and diabetics so that inhibit it are being designed as an anti- diabetic therapy.

Dr Martin-Granados adds: "The work shows that this important protein in our cells (PTP1B) is a potential target for new therapies to regulate the when it needs a boost as in severe infections or when it goes wrong as in cancer."

Explore further

Study exposes how 'James Bond' cells are made

More information: "A key role for PTP1B in dendritic cell maturation, migration, and T cell activation." J Mol Cell Biol. 2015 Jun 10.
Citation: Immune system 'on switch' breakthrough could lead to new targeted drugs (2015, July 20) retrieved 5 December 2021 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors