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La Jolla Institute identifies molecular switch enabling immune cells to better fight disease
Date:1/20/2013

by coaxing the CD4 killer cells to become regulatory cells instead, which is another one of their potential functions. In regulatory mode, the CD4 T cells suppress the immune system. This suppression reduces inflammatory cells, which is what we want to do in autoimmune diseases."

However in cancer, the CD4 T cell's regulatory function becomes problematic because they inhibit the killer T cells from destroying cancerous cells. This is because of their built-in mechanism to keep T cells from attacking the body's own cells, said Dr. Cheroutre. "Cancer cells develop from our own cells and only look a little different from healthy cells," she explained. "The killer T cells can sense that they are different and decide to eliminate them. However, the CD4 regulatory T cells frequently suppress the killer T cells and prevent them from destroying the cancerous cells. This is often how cancer cells can escape the immune system's normal action of stamping out bad cells."

Dr. Cheroutre said she believes it may be possible, using the newly discovered mechanism, to turn the CD4 regulatory T cells into killer cells that would aid, rather than block, the immune system's attack on cancerous cells.


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Contact: Bonnie Ward
contact@liai.org
619-303-3160
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Source:Eurekalert

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