Melbourne researchers have revealed the critical importance of highly specialised immune cells, called natural killer cells, in killing melanoma cells that have spread to the lungs.
These natural killer cells could be harnessed to hunt down and kill cancers that have spread in the body.
Melbourne researchers have revealed the critical importance of highly specialized immune cells, called natural killer cells, in killing melanoma cells that have spread to the lungs. These natural killer cells could be harnessed to hunt down and kill cancers that have spread in the body. Dr. Nick Huntington (left), Rebecca Delconte (center) and Dr. Priyanka Sathe led the team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia.
Credit: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
The team, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, also found natural killer cells were critical to the body's rejection of donor bone marrow transplants and in the runaway immune response during toxic shock syndrome.
The discoveries came after the team showed that a protein called MCL-1 was crucial for survival of natural killer cells, in research published today in the journal Nature Communications. The discovery will help to determine how natural killer cells can be manipulated to fight cancers and other disorders.
Dr Nick Huntington, Dr Priyanka Sathe and Ms Rebecca Delconte from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said MCL-1 could be a target for boosting or depleting natural killer cell populations to treat disease. Natural killer cells are immune predators, scouring the body in search of foreign invaders such as viruses, and sensing changes in our own cells that are associated with cancer.
Dr Huntington said the team showed natural killer cells were needed to fight off invading tumour cells that had spread past the original cancer site.
"We discovered MCL-1 is absolutely essential for keeping natural killer cells alive," Dr Huntington said. "Without natural killer cells, the body was unable to destroy melanoma metastases that had spread throughout the body, and the cancers overwhelmed the lungs".
"Knowing how important natural killer cells are for detecting and destroying cancer cells as they spread suggests they would be a good target for boosting immune defenses to treat cancer."
Natural killer cells are present in high frequency in our blood and patrol the body's 'frontlines' – the lungs, intestines, mucous membranes and skin – to detect and destroy diseased cells. However these predatory natural killer cells are a double-edged sword.
Dr Huntington said the team showed natural killer cells also played a role in death from toxic shock (sepsis), and in rejecting bone marrow transplants.
"Natural killer cells led the response that caused rejection of donor stem cells in bone marrow transplantations," Dr Huntington said. "They also produced inflammatory signals that can result in toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal illness caused by bacterial toxins that causes a whole-body inflammatory reaction."
Dr Huntington said the discovery provided a solid lead to look for ways of boosting natural killer cells when they are needed in higher supply, or depleting them when they are causing illness.
"We showed MCL-1 levels inside the cell increase in response to a blood cell signalling protein called interleukin 15 (IL-15). We previously knew IL-15 boosted production and survival of natural killer cells, and we have shown that IL-15 does this by initiating a cascade of signals that tell the natural killer cell to produce MCL-1 to keep it alive."
"Now that we know the critical importance of MCL-1 in the survival of natural killer cells, we are investigating how we might manipulate this protein, or other proteins in the pathway, to treat disease," Dr Huntington said.
The research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, The Menzies Foundation and the Victorian Government.
Liz Williams | Eurek Alert!
How to become a T follicular helper cell
31.07.2015 | La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics
31.07.2015 | University of California - Berkeley
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics
31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy