There is some very uplifting news for those of us who suffer from conditions that are brought on by suppression of our immune system. Researchers at Loyola have developed a technique which bolsters the immune system’s killer T-cells and make them into more potent ammunition fights of cancers and other infections.
The study, which was published in the February 2012 issue of the medical journal Nature Medicine, talked about how DNA could be delivered into the immune system’s instructor cells which would in turn go on a manufacture overdrive to stimulate the action of critical killer T-cells.
T-cells are essentially white blood cells and a very vital component of our immune system that play a critical role in cell-mediated immunity. However, in conditions like cancer and HIV, the production of these T cells is suppressed. (1)
The study was based on the mice model where the new technique proved effective in providing a boost and jumpstarting the faltering immune system of the immune-compromised mice. Similar evidence was seen in human cells as well in the study for those who suffered from HIV.
The new technique involved administering of DNA through a device called the ‘gene gun’ which would activate antigen-presenting instructor cells. These instructor cells would then produce certain proteins that when interacting with the hitherto inactive T-cells would unlock their killer properties.
The newly converted killer T-cells then go out, seek and destroy pathogens and cancer cells. The newly converted killer T-cells also remain alert if they again encounter pathogens or if the cancer comes back. In becoming killer T-cells the inactive T cells required the aid of other T-cells without which preying upon infectious cells became impossible. (2)
In HIV disease, the virus destroys the helper T-cells. Similarly, in cancer patients, the helper T-cells are suppressed by the infection and this limits their ability to assist killer T-cells, and eventually damages the T-cell’s ability to attack other tumors.
This is exactly where the new technique helps.