AsianScientist (Sep. 9, 2016) – With the help of powerful imaging technology, researchers in Australia have visualized in detail the critical first stage of an immune response inside a single functional T-cell. Their work was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Using a novel analysis method to distinguish signaling from non-signaling receptors in the same T-cell, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) team led by UNSW Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus found that only 25 percent of receptors on the T-cell were activated at a given time, despite being bombarded with antigens. Importantly, they found that this performance disparity was linked to spatial organization on the cell’s surface.
“Our findings have a touch of Animal Farm. Although all receptors in a single T-cell are genetically and biochemically identical, they are not functionally identical,” said Gaus, in reference to the 1945 dystopian short story written by George Orwell.
In people with cancer, for example, T-cells eventually become inactive or exhausted. Taking what we now know about the T-cell clusters, researchers can develop strategies to rescue these T-cells and turn the receptors back on, Gaus said.
Gaus also said her team has already developed a nanotechnology device that can re-arrange receptors on T-cells. Pending funding outcomes, they will begin experiments in mouse models, and should have a proof-of-principle ready within three years.
The article can be found at: Pageon et al. (2016) Functional Role of T-cell Receptor Nanoclusters in Signal Initiation and Antigen Discrimination.
Source: University of New South Wales; Photo: Pixabay.
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