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They are young and need the job: A second chance for dangerous T-cells
Date:6/15/2009

T-cells are driven to cell death. Some of them are 'reeducated' into so-called regulatory T-cells. While these still possess a T-cell receptor that targets the body's own structures, they have been reprogrammed during their development in the thymus so that they can no longer cause any damage. In fact, it is "quite the opposite," as Klein explained. "They even keep other nearby errant T -cells under control. This is why the mechanisms for the creation of regulatory T-cells are of enormous practical interest. Deciphering these processes could lead to new therapeutic approaches for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatic arthritis and type-1 diabetes, which are triggered by autoreactive T-cells."

Klein and his colleagues are working on a study into unexplained aspects of regulatory T-cells: How can negative selection, i.e. induced cell death, and reprogramming into regulatory T-cells both take place in the thymus gland, right alongside each other? Why does apparently the same trigger drive some cells to 'suicide' while bringing on a 'reeducation process' in others? "One largely popular hypothesis among immunologists in answer to these questions is based on the fact that T-cells can only recognize their target structures if they have them presented to them by other immune cells," said Klein. "Since there are various subspecies of these antigen-presenting cells in the thymus, we tested whether some of them are possibly specialized in controlling one or the other T-cell destinies with a negative result."

Instead, it turned out that the developmental stage the 'age' as it were of the T-cells is crucial. This was even observable in vitro: Young T-cells are very readily reeducated into regulatory T-cells, while older T-cells are largely 'resistant to reeducation' under identical conditions. "It is important for us to understand this 'educability' at a molecular level," Klein said, "because then we might be able to manipulate adult, non
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Contact: Dr. Ludger Klein
ludger.klein@med.uni-muenchen.de
49-089-218-075-696
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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