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New Research Links Role of T Cells Metabolism in Autoimmune Diseases

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Published on : Aug 24, 2017

A recent research investigating the role of metabolic pathways in immune cells in maintaining a healthy immune response to infections, found how functional disruption or exhaustion in specialized T cells may impair immune system. Scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, USA, have found evidence that regulatory T cells are prone to functional exhaustion and disruption of metabolism. This specialized set of lymphocytes guard the body’s immune system against asthma, allergies, and a variety of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.

The study was published in the scientific journal Nature. The findings, believe scientists and clinicians, will pave way for finding new approaches for treating various autoimmune diseases.

Loss of Protein Signaling in Regulatory T cells Impairs Cell Metabolism

For the first time, the study highlighted the vital role of metabolism in T cells for maintaining immunity against allergic reactions. In addition, regulatory T cells exhaustion may also affect the functions of conventional T cells, specifically responsible for inhibiting the growth of tumors and pathogens causing infections.

The team of scientists based their findings on experiments conducted on cell metabolism in mice. The investigators established how the loss of a protein called liver kinase B1 (LKB1), a tumor suppressor agent found in regulatory T cells, impaired cell metabolism in mice, leading to fatal inflammatory disease. According to one of the authors, disruption in metabolism is especially related with mitochondria.

Increased Production of Key Receptors by T Cells Inhibits Immunity against Allergies

LKB1 also plays a key role in various processes inhibiting allergic reactions. The team inferred that loss of LKB1 signaling restrained the expression of programmed cell death protein (PD-1) and other similar receptors, largely responsible for preventing autoimmune diseases by conventional T cells.

The study was funded by a number of grants from prominent healthcare research centers such as the National Institutes of Health and the American Asthma Foundation, and partly funded by The American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. 

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