News / Health

Scientists Discover Off-Switch to Regulate Immune System

Jessica Berman

Scientists have discovered a cellular "off-switch" that could allow doctors to control the body’s immune response in a host of diseases, and could boost the efficiency of vaccines against diseases like HIV and malaria.

The so-called "off-switch" is a protein called TMED7. Researchers at Ireland’s Trinity College Dublin say in normal, healthy cells, the protein calms the immune system after it is done fighting a bacterial infection.

Anne McGettrick co-led the study that identified TMED7. She likens the immune system to an orchestra with many different sections, and TMED7 to one of the instruments. It is the first member of a family of proteins to be identified as an important regulator of the immune system.

“Why that’s exciting to us is because the more we can tweak just small aspects of our immune system, and the more we understand about how each bit works, the more likely we are to understand what’s going wrong in diseases - why some people get different symptoms - and that when their immune system goes wrong we can work out which pathways are going wrong,” McGettrick said.

Without TMED7 acting as a brake, McGettrick says the immune system would rage out of control after neutralizing a bacterial infection.

Researchers knocked out the protein and then infected the cells with a bacterium.  They found the cellular immune response became over-activated.  

McGettrick believes developing drugs, or vaccine adjuvants, that crank up the immune system by removing TMD7 from cells could help boost the effectiveness of vaccines, against HIV and malaria.  Vaccines work better when the body's immune system response is robust.

“That’s the next avenue that we want to go down to see if knocking out this gene is a candidate for a vaccine adjuvant,” McGettrick said.

The researchers also imaged unaltered cells, and then exposed the cells to a bacterial microbe, to see TMED7 at work.

“It allowed the immune system to work for the length of time that it needed to work and then it moved in to do its job [of stopping the immune attack],” McGettrick said.

In the case of autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s immune system goes into over-drive and attacks its own tissues, tweaking TMD7 and other immune regulators, according to McGettrick, could lead to treatments to reduce the severity of the attack.   

An article by Anne McGettrick and colleagues describing discovery of the immune system off-switch protein, TMD7, is published in Nature Communications.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs