SEP 02, 2021 7:00 AM PDT

Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes

Innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs, are specialized immune cells that are increasingly entering the research spotlight. These cells mirror many of the characteristics and functions of T cells. In contrast, however, ILCs do not have antigen receptors on their cell surfaces, nor do they migrate to the site of infection and expand in numbers when stimulated by the presence of pathogens. Instead, ILCs stay put in tissues and organs where they churn out an inflammatory cocktail of cytokines in response to tissue injury or infection.

These powerful immune functions can be harnessed therapeutically. But first, scientists must find a missing piece in the ILC puzzle: how these cells differentiate and mature into fully-fledged immune warriors.

Georg Gasteiger and colleagues at the Max Planck Research Group set out in search of answers, seeking to more deeply understand how immature ILCs turn into operational effector cells capable of killing malignant or infected cells. The researchers took a closer look at a subpopulation of liver ILCs known to be involved in both these immune processes, creating a genetic atlas of mRNA molecules extracted and compiled from individual lLCs.

Among the team’s breakthrough findings was the observation that a cohort of ‘supply’ ILCs resided within tissues. These cells can multiply rapidly upon sensing danger and differentiate into killer ILCs, a process driven by a transcription factor gene called Hobit. These immune killers have specific molecular signatures that enable them to recognize and eliminate cancer effectively.

These findings contradict what the textbooks say about ILCs—that ILCs consist of a heterogeneous mix of different cell types. Instead, Gasteiger and colleagues demonstrate different degrees of specialization in ILCs, which stem from a single population of supply cells.

The team plans to continue delving into the mysterious world of ILC biology, seeking clues on activating killer ILCs therapeutically to eradicate tumors and cancer metastases developing within tissues. Moreover, because Hobit is expressed in other cytotoxic cells of the human immune system, understanding the role of this transcription factor in modulating other immune effects may help unlock novel mechanisms for fighting cancer in different tissues.

Source: Nature Immunology.

About the Author
PhD
Interested in health technology and innovation.
You May Also Like
JAN 26, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Oral Immunotherapy Puts Peanut Allergy into Remission
JAN 26, 2022
Oral Immunotherapy Puts Peanut Allergy into Remission
Peanut oral immunotherapy may help young children who are highly allergic to peanuts become desensitized to their allerg ...
FEB 03, 2022
Immunology
Nanoparticles Act Like Platelets to Stop Bleeding
FEB 03, 2022
Nanoparticles Act Like Platelets to Stop Bleeding
  Researchers have created nanoparticles that mimic the effects of blood platelets to stop heavy bleeding. Biomedic ...
FEB 11, 2022
Plants & Animals
New Prostate Cancer Drug Effective in Dogs, Promising for Humans
FEB 11, 2022
New Prostate Cancer Drug Effective in Dogs, Promising for Humans
Prostate cancer affects about one in eight men each year, and is one of the most common types of cancer in men). Researc ...
MAR 05, 2022
Health & Medicine
What Are the Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Symptoms of Long COVID?
MAR 05, 2022
What Are the Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Symptoms of Long COVID?
As if dealing with a symptomatic COVID-19 infection wasn't bad enough, those with long COVID are dealing with change ...
MAR 17, 2022
Immunology
How Bacteria Can Keep Intestinal Inflammation in Check
MAR 17, 2022
How Bacteria Can Keep Intestinal Inflammation in Check
We need bile acids to help us digest food and absorb nutrients. New research has shown how bile acids modified by bacter ...
APR 29, 2022
Immunology
Mental Health and Our Immune System
APR 29, 2022
Mental Health and Our Immune System
The conversation regarding mental health is finally at the forefront and is no longer a taboo topic that people shy away ...
Loading Comments...