Our bodies are incredibly intricate, complex systems, most especially when it comes to ways to improve immune system.
Scientists at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute have recently uncovered a danger receptor that might just kick-start the immune reaction in our bodies.
The receptor picks up signs of abnormal cell death that can be caused by a tumor or injury and then mobilizes the body’s defenses.
Cell death is a natural body process where old cells make way for the new, keeping repair and growth going on so that tissues stay healthy.
Sometimes there’s an abnormal type of cell death, called nercrosis that happens as part of an injury or tumor growth.
This makes some evolutionary sense as an injury puts your body at risk of infection – so an immune response is a natural, sensible precaution for the body to take.
Researchers believe that the body somehow is able to sense abnormal cell death and the immune system begins to react.
But until now, no one has located a receptor that detects abnormal cell death.
“After a 15-year hunt, we’ve identified the first ‘danger receptor’ – one which senses abnormal cell death and then triggers an immune response.” says study leader Dr. Caetano Reis e Sousa who leads the Immunobiology Laboratory team as they try to understand how the immune system detects and responds to infection.
“The detection of ‘danger’ could explain some situations when a tumor triggers an immune reaction against itself.”
The team discovered that the DNGR-1 receptor on an immune cell, known as a dendritic cell (a type of messenger that sounds the alert), is what gets the immune response (T cells) going after encountering an abnormal cell death.
Most often the targets of these immune responses are viruses or bacteria, but the UK researchers believe that tumors can also trigger this type of immune reaction. Tumors often have clusters of cells at their core that undergo nercrosis because they are fed by a very limited blood supply.
This might explain why some tumor killing medications do seem to work – they’re able to set off some form of an immune response.
With this latest finding researchers are hoping to be able to develop cancer treatments that work with the power of the immune system to help shrink tumors.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “The concept of using the body’s immune system to fight cancer has been around for decades, but advances in recent years have made this field of research a very exciting one.”
The work of the British team appears in the most recent issue of Nature.
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UK Researchers Uncover Signal That Kick Starts Your Immune System continued…
Research continues in the area of vaccine development and immunotherapy, and there have been a very small number of people (mostly melanoma patients) who’ve been helped by vaccines.
Today there are two types of cancer vaccines – ones to prevent cancer and ones that treat the cancer. Dendritic cell vaccines are thought to treat cancer, though much more study is needed.
What’s more, if modern medicine can learn more about how to improve immune system processes this could not only help in treating cancers, but with preventing rejection of transplanted organs.