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Genetic regulator opens new avenues to AIDS, immune system research
Date:7/1/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. Researchers at Oregon State University and the California Institute of Technology have discovered that a genetic regulator which is critical to many life functions also plays a key role in the formation of "T cells," a type of white blood cell that's important in immune function.

The discovery, to be announced Friday in the journal Science, suggests that some types of immune function might be influenced by manipulation of this genetic regulator. This could be a target for drug development, and could open the door to new immune system-based therapies for everything from diseases of T cells, such as HIV/AIDS, to autoimmune disorders and allergies.

Other aspects of the research could be of interest to scientists trying to re-program cells to perform different functions, which is the basis of stem cell research.

The genetic regulator, or transcription factor, is called Ctip2, and it's also known as Bcl11b. It's a protein that controls gene "expression," or what aspects of a cell's genetic code will be turned on and which will be left silent. Discovered at OSU in 2000, Ctip2 has in recent years been found to be a master regulator of gene expression, controlling tissue formation in organs as diverse as tooth enamel, brain cells, skin, and T cells.

"Ctip2 is so important to various life functions that laboratory mice lacking this gene die within a few hours after birth," said Mark Leid, a professor and assistant dean in the OSU College of Pharmacy. "Ctip2 is not expressed in every cell, but plays essential roles in several different organs. The new finding about its relationship to early events in T cell formation may be of substantial interest to immunologists and clinicians alike."

T cells are important players in what's called the "adaptive" immune system, or the ability of an organism to mount an attack against a new invader, fight it off and then provide full or partial immunity to it in the fut
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Contact: Mark Leid
mark.leid@oregonstate.edu
541-737-5809
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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