A new discovery by the Loyola researchers could help to develop new drugs for organ transplant and cancer patients.
have reported surprising findings about a molecule that acts to ramp up the
immune system in some cases and suppress it in others. The finding eventually
could lead to new drugs to regulate the immune system by, for example, revving
it up to attack tumor cells or tamping it down to prevent the rejection of
study is published online ahead of print in the Journal of Immunology. Senior
author is Makio Iwashima, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of
Microbiology and Immunology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of
Medicine. Co-authors are Robert Love, MD, a professor in the Departments of
Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and Microbiology and Immunology and one of
the world's leading lung transplant surgeons and first author Mariko Takami,
PhD of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
immune system is a balancing act between two types of cells. Effector cells
attack tumor cells and cells infected by viruses or bacteria. Regulatory cells
suppress the immune system so that it does not attack healthy tissue. If
effector cells are too active, an individual can suffer autoimmune disorders
such as lupus, Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. But if regulatory cells
are too active, the immune system will not be aggressive enough to protect the
individual from germs and cancer.
study involved an immune system molecule called transforming growth factor beta
(TGF-β). TGF-β is known to be a powerful regulator of the immune response --
generally suppressing the strength of the response. In this study, however,
Loyola researchers demonstrated that TGF-β can amplify the immune response and
result in a more effective targeted response under specific conditions.
is a double-edged sword," Iwashima said. "It augments immune system
reactions, but does not determine what direction they will take. Depending on
conditions, these reactions can either activate or suppress the immune
study involved mouse cells grown ex vivo in laboratory dishes. The next steps
will be to study TGF-β in human cells and in animal models. Understanding the
dual role of TGF-β could help in the development of drugs to either activate or
suppress the immune system, as needed, Iwashima said.
study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Van Kampen
Cardiovascular Research Fund.