Mice without the deoxycytidine kinase (dCK) enzyme have defects in their adaptive immune system, producing very low levels of both T and B lymphocytes, the major players involved in immune response, according to a study by researchers with UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The finding could have ramifications in treating auto-immune disorders, in which the body attacks itself, and possibly certain cancers of the immune system. A drug could be developed to create lower levels of dCK in the body, thereby tamping down immune response. Such a drug might also be effective in transplant patients to decrease risk for rejection, said Dr. Caius Radu, an assistant professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study.
The study, part of a long-term research project that has resulted in the development of a new probe for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning and the creation of a non-invasive approach to observe chemotherapy at work in the body, appears this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It would be desirable to have drugs that can inhibit immune response when that response is detrimental and increase response when needed," said Radu, who also is a scientist with the Broad Stem Cell Research Center. "We are now trying to identify drugs that inhibit or activate dCK in the hopes of testing them on certain diseases."
The dCK enzyme helps recycle the products of DNA degradation, allowing cells to efficiently replicate their DNA during cell division. Until now, the enzyme was thought to play a relatively minor role in providing cells the material for DNA replication. However, this finding challenges that view and indicates the enzyme plays a profound role in normal lymphocyte development.
Wayne Austin, a graduate study in Molecular and Medical Pharmacology and first author of the study, sa
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University of California - Los Angeles