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A*STAR scientists discover special class of natural fats stimulates immune cells to fight diseases
Date:4/2/2012

An international research team led by scientists from Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) under the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) discovered that a special class of fatty molecules is essential for activating a unique group of early-responding immune cells. This study sheds light on how recognition of fatty molecules by immune cells could protect from infection, allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases and cancer. More importantly, it offers new opportunities to exploit the use of these stimulatory fatty molecules in therapeutic interventions, such as the development of new vaccines and drugs targetted for autoimmune diseases.

The early-responding immune cells investigated in this study, called the invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells, are important as first line of defence against infectious and foreign agents. When stimulated, iNKT cells secrete large amounts of biological chemicals, and are capable of influencing the responses of other immune cells in the body.

It is well established that iNKT cells recognise and are activated by fatty molecules from various sources, including those from diseases-causing bacteria and those that are naturally produced in the thymus [1]. This study identifies for the first time, the actual type of fatty molecules that stimulates the development of iNKT cells in the thymus. This discovery came about through systematic biochemical and structural analysis of fatty molecules extracted from the thymus.

The team, co-led by Professor Gennaro De Libero and Dr Lucia Mori, Senior Principal Investigators at SIgN, found that the fatty molecules produced in the thymus which were able to stimulate iNKT cells all have the chemical linkage called ether bonds.

To validate the stimulatory activity of these special class of self-generated fatty molecules, the scientists artificially manufactured ether-bonded fatty molecules through synthetic chemistry, and found that they were sim
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Contact: Dr. Sarah Chang
chang_kai_chen@a-star.edu.sg
65-682-66442
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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