NOV 22, 2016 06:27 PM PST

Scientists Discover "Quality Control" Department During T Cell Development

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Thanks to immune soldiers called T cells, the body is protected from most infections: viral, bacterial, parasitical, or other. T cells endure a strenuous process to become the functional units that they are, and unfortunately sometimes errors are made during their “training” that causes them to detect healthy, host cells as “foreign,” causing autoimmune diseases that many people are familiar with: type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher Dr. Charis Teh has led a study revealing a quality control step in the development in immune T cells.
In a new study from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, scientists discovered a new, key player involved in T cell development in an organ called the thymus, essentially the “training ground” for developing T cells. The key player is a protein complex, specifically the “linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex” (LUBAC).

LUBAC’s newly discovered role in the Nature Communications study revolves around quality control: something every well-functioning business - or body system - needs to conduct successfully.
 
"Since the function of the thymus was discovered by Professor Jacques Miller almost 60 years ago, there has been an intense research effort to reveal the intricate details of how immune T cells develop," said one of the leading researchers, Dr. Charis Teh.

LUBAC regulates the quality of the immune respond by preventing autoimmune cells from continuing through the stages of development when they respond to “self,” also known as the host’s own healthy cells that don’t need immune cell mounting a response against them.

“We're excited by the prospect that this new checkpoint may be important for ensuring autoimmune T cells are not allowed to complete their development," Teh said.

Current treatments for autoimmune diseases suppress the entirety of the immune system, making people more vulnerable to infection from any bacteria and viruses that they encounter. With this new finding, though, the potential for a more targeted treatment grows, by only targeted T cells with dysfunctional LUBAC.

New applications in the future involve new treatments for autoimmune diseases and diseases caused by mutations in the gene coding for LUBAC, which past research has connected to rare immune diseases.
 


Source: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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