In a new study published in the April 1, 2003 issue of Genes and Development, scientists at University Health Network’s Advanced Medical Discovery Institute (AMDI)/Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) have shown that a molecule called caspase-8 plays a key role in the immune system response, by controlling how T-cells are activated to respond to infections.
T-cells are white blood cells that recognize and fight off viruses and bacteria. When T-cells encounter these foreign invaders they build up a T-cell "army" by multiplying themselves many thousand-fold in process known as activation. Once their job is complete, T-cells are eliminated in a process known as apoptosis. While caspase-8 is largely recognized as a critical factor in this elimination process, this study produced a new finding: caspase-8 is also essential for the activation of T-cells at the start of the immune response.
"This research has helped us better understand how caspase-8 activates the immune system response by triggering T-cells to proliferate. When caspase-8 is inhibited, the immune response is significantly decreased," explains Dr. Razqallah Hakem, principal investigator AMDI/OCI and Assistant Professor in Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.
Kim Garwood | University of Toronto
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