Experiments to investigate the function of NK cells have proven difficult to interpret because the interactions between the various components of the immune system make it almost impossible to isolate effects of individual cell types.
This has changed with the development of a mouse in which individual genes can be knocked out (eliminated) only in NK cells, thereby providing scientists with a tool to study the importance of NK cells and indeed of individual pathways in these cells. The mouse was generated in the group of Veronika Sexl, who has recently moved from the Medical University of Vienna to the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. An initial characterization is presented in the current issue of the journal Blood.
The development of a tool alone would not normally generate headlines but this case is different: the new mouse can be used to knock out any gene completely and exclusively in NK cells. It thus permits researchers to examine the functions of NK cells in the entire organism or even to investigate the importance of individual genes in this particular cell-type.
Sexl herself has naturally used the tool already. She has been able to show that a particular transcription factor known as Stat5 is essential for the correct development of NK cells – when this factor is eliminated, the cells fail to develop properly. The upshot is a mouse with an immune system that lacks NK cells but is otherwise fully intact. This is the first time it has proven possible to remove this particular cell type without affecting the rest of the animal. Finally, then, it is possible to learn what NK cells actually do in the intact organism.
Sexl and her collaborators have shown that mice lacking NK cells have normal T-cell responses to tumours, although their NK cell-mediated responses are naturally dramatically reduced. This experiment proves conclusively that the mouse can be used to untangle the web of interactions among the various cells of the immune system.
Sexl’s work has immediate implications for the treatment of cancer in humans. As an example, leukemia is sometimes treated by inhibiting the STAT5 protein. Sexl’s findings make it clear that this approach has a real drawback: inhibition of STAT5 will lead to a drop in the number of NK cells and so interfere with one of the body’s own mechanisms for fighting the cancer. It will be important to assess whether NK cells normally play a part in fighting diseases before inhibiting STAT5. For the first time, the newly developed mouse provides a tool to do so. Not surprisingly, it is already attracting a great deal of interest – as Sexl says, “They’ve been going like hot cakes ever since the word got out.”
The paper A novel Ncr1-Cre mouse reveals the essential role of STAT5 for NK cell survival and development by Eva Eckelhart, Wolfgang Warsch, Eva Zebedin, Olivia Simma, Dagmar Stoiber, Thomas Kolbe, Thomas Rülicke, Mathias Mueller, Emilio Casanova and Veronika Sexl is published in the journal Blood (3 February 2011, Vol. 117, pp. 1565-1573). Although Sexl has only just joined the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna she has had a long association with the University and her recent work was performed in close collaboration with a number of its scientists as well as with the group of Emilio Casanova at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research, Vienna.
The work was co-funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and undertaken in the framework of the Special Research Programme (SFB) “Jak-Stat-Signalling from Basics to Disease”, hosted by the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna.
http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/research/top-news/natural-born-killers-what-do-they-really-do/Full bibliographic information
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences