MADISON -- That the cell nurturing growth factor interleukin-7 can help ramp up the ability of the immune system to remember the pathogenic villains it encounters is well known.
But precisely how this natural protein works its magic on the cells of the immune system is not well understood. Now, however, in research that may have implications for developing vaccines against HIV and cancer, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that the timing of interleuin-7 therapy is critical for increasing the number of killer cells that zero in on and destroy virus-infected cells.
Writing in the current online issue (Feb. 1, 2008) of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a team led by UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor of pathobiological sciences Marulasiddappa Suresh reports that therapeutic administration of interleukin-7 can be linked to a stage of early infection to effectively increase the number of a type of killer cell that recognizes and selectively assassinates virus-infected cells.
"These cells need to get interleukin-7 for their survival," explains Suresh, of the killer immune cell known as CD8 T cells, a type of white blood cell that attacks virus-infected cells, foreign cells and cancer cells. Interleukin-7 is produced in very small amounts in bone marrow, spleen, and the thymus, but scientists have been able to isolate and synthesize the agent, which is now in pre-clinical testing for a variety of conditions.
"This is one of the most exciting cytokines in pre-clinical human trials," says Suresh. "The idea is that it might be used as an immune restorative agent. It is absolutely essential for normal development and functioning of the immune system."
Effectively stimulating the immune system -- the complex of organs and cells that defends the body against infection and disease -- is a grail of biomedical science in the fight against infectious diseases.
Suresh explains that upon infe
|Contact: Marulasiddappa Suresh|
University of Wisconsin-Madison