A Japanese brewery, an Okinawan sea sponge and some clever detective work have enabled an international research team based at the University of Chicago to solve a biological mystery, and the solution suggests a novel way to boost the bodys defenses against cancer.
In Science Express, the online early-publication version of the journal Science, the researchers provide evidence that a sugary lipid known as iGb3 plays a key role in regulating the response of natural killer T cells, a component of the immune system that plays an important role in preventing cancer, fighting infections and perhaps triggering or avoiding autoimmune diseases.
Discovered less than ten years ago, natural killer (NK) T cells are unusual because they target lipids, often bound to carbohydrates, rather than proteins. When presented with a lipid that may signal a threat, they pump out chemical signals, such interferon-gamma and interleukin-4, which tell other components of the immune system to rid the body of these invaders.
John Easton | EurekAlert!
Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
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