The T cells of the immune system possess receptors on their surface with which they can recognize bacteria, viruses, and fungi and which enable the immune system to fight against foreign invaders and destroy them. At the same time, however, T cells must differentiate between “self” and “foreign” – between the body’s own proteins and foreign proteins – so that the immune system tolerates the body’s own tissue. If the immune system is no longer able to make this differentiation, it attacks “self” structures, leading to autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
In cancer diseases, however, the immune system appears to be restricted in its response. Cancer cells originate from the body’s own tissue, which is why the immune system obviously has trouble recognizing them – and that, although cancer cells often have antigens (from the Greek word antigennan meaning “produce against”) which make them recognizable as tumor cells and pathologically altered cells.
Professor Thomas Blankenstein and his research team at the MDC and Charité want to break this tolerance towards cancer cells. In their research they utilized a process which in mammals automatically makes mature immune cells out of immature T cells. Immature T cells do not yet possess any T cell receptors and thus have to migrate from the bone marrow to the thymus. In this gland, which is part of the immune system, the T cell receptor genes, with which the T cell recognizes antigens, undergo random gene rearrangement.
Each of the millions of generated T cells expresses only one T cell receptor on the cell surface with which an antigen is recognized. In the thymus, however, all T cells which recognize “self” structures are deactivated. T cells which specifically target foreign antigens are spared from these tolerance mechanisms. The mouse, for example, does not develop any tolerance toward human cancer cell antigens.“Probably no other transgenic mouse has that many human gene segments”
The researchers aim to isolate these high-affinity human T cell receptors of the mouse, for which human cancer antigens are foreign, and to introduce them into the T cells of cancer patients. In this way the patients’ ineffective T cells shall be boosted in their effectiveness to destroy the cancer cells. In contrast to a bone marrow transplantation, in which many T cells of the transplant are activated in the recipient, which can lead to life-threatening destruction of healthy cells, this therapy approach is very selective. With this method the researchers hope to avoid an overreaction of the immune system.
Whether the highly upgraded human T cells from the mouse preserve their great effectiveness in humans remains to be seen. At present the researchers are preparing a first clinical trial, in which they will test the effectiveness and tolerance of these T cell receptors in cancer patients.
Professor Blankenstein is also spokesperson of the transregional collaborative research program “Principles and Applications of Adoptive T Cell Therapy” in Berlin and Munich. This program, funded by the German Research Foundation until 2014, explores new approaches to cancer treatment with the aid of the immune system. Participants in this program along with the MDC and the Charité in Berlin are the German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin and in Munich the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health and two universities, Technische Universität München (TUM) and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU).A photo and graphics can be downloaded from the internet at:
3 Bill Ford Chair in Cellular Immunology, University of Manchester, Faculty of Life Sciences, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PT
*These authors contributed equally to this workBarbara Bachtler
Further reports about: > Blankenstein > Components > DNA > Human vaccine > Immune cell activation > Immunology > MDC > Mouse > T cell receptors > T cells > TCR > artificial chromosome > autoimmune disease > building block > cancer cells > cancer patients > cancer-fighting > embryonic stem > embryonic stem cell > healthy cell > immune cell > immune system > stem cells
Molecular Force Sensors
20.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Foster tadpoles trigger parental instinct in poison frogs
20.09.2017 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
20.09.2017 | Life Sciences
20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy