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
First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife
Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.10.2016 | Process Engineering