OCT 19, 2019 8:24 AM PDT

Looking at the bigger picture: immune cells in a human body

While laboratory-conducted research has allowed for countless scientific advancements over the years, it may not come as a surprise that studying cells in a petri dish does not produce quite the exact same results as studying cells in the complex system of the human body.

"It is akin to observing animal behavior in a zoo versus in the wild,” said Russell Jones, Ph.D., the senior author of a study that was recently published in Immunity on the topic. “Our immune cells don't operate in a vacuum -- they work in concert with a host of other cells and factors, which influence how and when energy is used,” he added. Dr. Jones is head of Van Andel Institute's Metabolic and Nutritional Programming group, the group that conducted the research.

Jones and his fellow colleagues collaborated with Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D. to construct a map showing how T cells use nutrients under different conditions in living organisms. They say that this method will help them continue their investigation on how T cells use glucose to respond to pathogens, injury, or diseases. "Going forward, this new mapping technique will be invaluable as we pursue disease-specific studies," said first author of the study, Eric Ma, Ph.D. "It has the potential to be transformative."

Many of the scientific and medical communities’ previously conceived notions regarding immune metabolic processes came from studies based on cells grown in petri dishes. One such idea is the concept that specialized immune cells called T cells convert a sugar called glucose into energy to power cellular function.

However, this new research challenges that idea, declaring that T cells in a living system not only convert glucose into energy, they also use it as building blocks for replicating DNA and other maintenance tasks. According to Science Daily, “The team also discovered that the ways T cells process glucose evolves over the course of an immune response, which suggests T cells may use resources differently in the body when fighting a bacterial infection like Listeria or a disease like cancer.”

Scientists aim to deepen their understanding on how T cells use glucose to respond to pathogens and disease. Photo: Pixabay

"Immune cells are far more dynamic in how they respond metabolically to infections and diseases than we previously realized," Jones commented. "For a while, we've been at a point in metabolism research that's like standing in the dark under a street lamp -- we could only see immediately in front of us. These findings will help us turn on the floodlights and illuminate the way to a more complete understanding of what immune cells need for optimal function." The researchers hope their findings will help develop new diagnostic and treatment strategies.

Sources: Immunity, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JAN 22, 2021
Cancer
Geospacial analysis of HPV vaccination uptake
JAN 22, 2021
Geospacial analysis of HPV vaccination uptake
In an effort to better understand how human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination varies by geography, researchers from VCU M ...
FEB 04, 2021
Cancer
Microchip models tumor‐immune interactions to predict immunotherapy effectiveness
FEB 04, 2021
Microchip models tumor‐immune interactions to predict immunotherapy effectiveness
A team from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI) has developed a microchip system that models immune ...
MAR 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Koala Retrovirus Can Rewrite the Genome & Trigger Cancer
MAR 02, 2021
Koala Retrovirus Can Rewrite the Genome & Trigger Cancer
Retroviruses can infect cells and insert themselves into the genetic code of their host. Sometime in the past 50,000 yea ...
APR 01, 2021
Plants & Animals
Scientists Solve Sea Lion Cancer Mystery
APR 01, 2021
Scientists Solve Sea Lion Cancer Mystery
For more than thirty years, scientists have tried to solve the mystery of the high prevalence of cancer among wild Calif ...
APR 03, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Why Are Some Cancer Therapeutics Ineffective?
APR 03, 2021
Why Are Some Cancer Therapeutics Ineffective?
Why don’t some cancer therapeutics not work in humans when they were successful in mice? The answer to this questi ...
APR 05, 2021
Cancer
Introducing DeepTCR, the deep-learning software for T-cell receptor sequencing data
APR 05, 2021
Introducing DeepTCR, the deep-learning software for T-cell receptor sequencing data
A team from the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center is introdu ...
Loading Comments...