In a study published recently in Science Immunology, WEHI’s Professor Stephen Nutt, Dr. Michael Chopin, and Mr. Shengbo Zhang have established the differentiation process that triggers the immune system to control cancer and infectious disease. The process identifies how a factor they’re calling DC-SCRIPT is necessary to trigger dendritic cells called cDC1 to produce an immune response.
The study explains how DC-SCRIPT is involved in producing the dendritic cells responsible for an immune reaction. Dendritic cells are immune cells that activate 'killer' T cells, the immune cells that attack viral infections elicit a response to tumors.
The researchers say that this knowledge will help the scientific and medical communities guide future investigations that aim to stimulate the human body to generate large numbers of dendritic cells, thus allowing for improved reactions to fight off cancer and infections.
"What we found, is that without this new factor, the cells develop poorly, and their capacity to fight infection and cancer, or to clear a parasite, is diminished," notes Professor Nutt. "The next stage of our research is to try and work out how we can get the body to produce these particular dendritic cells, cDC1s, in large volumes in order to boost the body's natural tumor response."
Dr. Chopin adds that cDC1s represent the potential to enhance immunity to viruses and tumors. "This paper clearly shows DC-SCRIPT is one of the regulators of dendritic cell production. As a result of this study, we're now focussed on ways we could harness this to increase dendritic cell production," he said. "We now have a biomarker to follow when we expand this elusive cell type, which we will continue to test in pre-clinical models. We have generated new tools, allowing us to trace these cells within the tumor and observe how they behave in the tumor environment.”