"When immune cells scan their targets they bind to their targets," he says. "When immune cells acquire normal Ras, nothing happens. But when they acquire mutated Ras from a potential tumor, it starts a cascade. This results in the production of cytokines that help the immune system and act against the cancer."
Transferring potential into a drug
Rechavi says that understanding the nature of this interaction between mutated Ras and immune t-cells can unlock mysteries about the nature of proteins and cells. The next step is to identify other proteins that, like Ras, are able to transfer outside of their cell of origin.
Rechavi is now conducting a scan of proteins in an attempt to identify which ones have similar characteristics and abilities to Ras, and how they might transfer in the body. The TAU researchers have developed a technology to scan hundreds of proteins and have already discovered many with transferring properties; they plan to publish their results soon.
The more researchers learn, the more they can exploit these cells to keep the human body healthy but Rechavi warns that not all the news may be good. "It could be that a bad protein is able to transfer from cancer cells to immune cells as well, upon acquiring such protein the immune system will be less active," says Rechavi. "It's also possible that a tumor could transfer the Ras protein into cells that normally support tumor growth, like stroma cells that grow blood vessels for the tumor. This is why we have to work to understand what is happening."
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University