Scientists seem to have figured out the way to prevent the regeneration of CD4+ T lymphocytes, white cells which ensure the immune system works properly.
The finding by Dr. Martin Guimond, from the Universite de Montreal and the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, may greatly influence patients who undergo intensive chemotherapy, receive bone marrow transplants or become infected with HIV.
Normally, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants are considered to be effective methods to treat patients suffering from leukaemia or other blood cancers.
However, owing to the massive destruction of T lymphocytes, such treatments cause a major weakening of the immune system.
While immunity can then take many years to regenerate, it could leave patients highly vulnerable to infections.
Guimond's study identified a negative regulation loop that restricts the ability of T lymphocytes to divide.
"By acting on this regulation loop, we can create a homeostatic production of CD4+ T lymphocytes that will allow the immune system to regenerate," Nature quoted Guimond, as saying.
The study was published in the prestigious journal Nature Immunology.