JUL 08, 2020 11:55 AM PDT

Scientists Use Genetics to Control Regulatory T Cells

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The ability to control regulatory T cells of the immune system has long been sought out by scientists, especially those with vested interests in improving treatments for autoimmune disease and cancer. In autoimmune disease, the immune system is overreacting to a stimulus that shouldn’t elicit such a response, and in cases of cancer, the immune system needs a bit of a push to identify, target, and eliminate cancerous cells. If you control the regulatory T cells (Tregs), you can control the immune response.

Researchers from the Salk Institute already had one gene on their radar: Foxp3. They had discovered in past studies that Foxp3 was deeply connected to Treg development and function; Foxp3 is a vital part of the puzzle for the structure and production of Treg activity.

In their new study, researchers used CRISPR gene-editing technology to test and identify additional gene candidates for involvement Treg function, looking for connections to Foxp3. They preliminarily identified hundreds of gene candidates as a result of the screening process. They narrowed down their exploration to focus on a select group of genes that involved with the “SWI/SNF complex.”

The SWI/SNF complex is a group of proteins involved in activating and deactivating genes by acting as gatekeepers for DNA that need to reach necessary cellular machinery. Next in the study, researchers tested to see what happens when SWI/SNF complex genes are removed from Tregs. One gene from a specific complex called ncBAF, Brd9, when deleted, led to lower levels of Foxp3 and weakened function in Tregs.

In mice models of cancer, Brd9-deficient Treg treatments prompted the activity of immune cells normally inhibited by Tregs to target cancerous growth. However, in mice models of inflammatory bowel disease, the deficient Tregs had a negative effect, failing to diminish the autoimmune attack on the digestive tract.

With a new tool for the selective tuning of Treg function, researchers are one step closer to being able to target specific conditions with precision, i.e. a specific autoimmune disorder or specific tissues affected by cancer.

Sources: Salk Institute, Immunity

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
APR 15, 2020
Immunology
How Malaria Protects Itself from the Immune System
APR 15, 2020
How Malaria Protects Itself from the Immune System
A specific parasitic species causes the most deaths from malaria: Plasmodium falciparum. This parasite does so by avoidi ...
APR 29, 2020
Immunology
New Immune Cell Discovered in Mammary Ducts
APR 29, 2020
New Immune Cell Discovered in Mammary Ducts
Dubbed “ductal macrophages,” newly discovered immune cells found in breast tissue offer fresh promise for fu ...
JUL 10, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Injection 66% Better than Daily Pill to Prevent HIV
JUL 10, 2020
Injection 66% Better than Daily Pill to Prevent HIV
Pharmaceutical company ViiV Healthcare has announced that its long-lasting, injectable drug, cabotegravir, is more effec ...
JUL 23, 2020
Immunology
Cancer Therapy Reduces Lung Scarring
JUL 23, 2020
Cancer Therapy Reduces Lung Scarring
Scientists at the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine have discovered a striking parallel ...
JUL 27, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
White Blood Cells Are Essential to the Developing Brain
JUL 27, 2020
White Blood Cells Are Essential to the Developing Brain
The brain is protected by a protective shield called the blood-brain barrier, which only allows certain things to pass t ...
JUL 29, 2020
Immunology
Immune Variation Explains Different COVID-19 Outcomes
JUL 29, 2020
Immune Variation Explains Different COVID-19 Outcomes
Immune systems respond differently to coronavirus infection. People experience the disease causes by coronavirus, COVID- ...
Loading Comments...