Finns discover a New Immune System Regulator
24 Feb 2018, 01:23 ( 24 Feb, 2018) | updated: 24 Feb 2018, 07:19 ( 24 Feb, 2018)
Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa’s research group from Turku Centre for Biotechnology of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University has discovered a new regulator of the immune system, a key factor that controls development of regulatory T cells.
The discovery provides basis for new strategies for the treatment of both cancer and immune-mediated diseases, said a press release.
Regulatory T cells are critical controllers of the immune response. The majority of T cells boost the immune response enhancing the ability to destroy cancer cells, viruses and bacteria. In contrast, regulatory T cells can sometimes suppress the immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells, allowing cancer to grow and spread. In these instances, inhibiting or braking the regulatory T cell activity would be needed.
“We discovered that a protein called ‘Hypermethylated In Cancer 1’, or HIC1, serves as the key regulator of regulatory T cells controlling the expression of a large set of genes contributing to T cell function,” said Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa.
“In addition, with genome-wide methods we show that HIC1 binds to sites in the nucleus that often contain genetic variations associated with immune-mediated diseases. This gives us completely new insights into molecular mechanisms that regulate T cell function and immune response in general,” Lahesmaa added.