MAY 13, 2021 8:00 AM PDT

Tumors Hide From the Immune System by Masquerading as Baby Cells

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

The immune system is programmed to recognize foreign bodies as potentially dangerous, promptly removing them before the intruders can cause the body harm. However, the immune system “tolerates” certain foreign tissues, such as a fetus developing in the womb, for example. 

For these nine months, the maternal and fetal immune systems coexist in a symbiotic relationship, with soluble and cell-surface molecules produced by the fetus thought to facilitate this mutual tolerance by suppressing the maternal immune system.

In a scientific study published in the journal Cell, researchers identified that liver tumor cells can shield themselves from the immune system by disguising themselves as fetal cells and employing similar immunosuppressive tactics. This strategy allows the cancer cells to thrive and spread without interference.

Immunologists mapped the genetic profiles of around 200,000 individual human liver cells that were extracted from both developing fetuses and hepatocellular carcinomas, a deadly form of liver cancer. They used single-cell RNA sequencing, a technique that allowed the scientists to identify parallels in the gene expression profiles between the two liver cell types.

The research team found that like fetal cells, the liver cancer cells were able to keep immune cells at bay by activating specific cell signaling pathways, such as VEGF signaling. This had the domino effect of triggering the Notch-Delta pathway in monocytes, making them differentiate into macrophages with immunosuppressive phenotypes.

Since 1980, liver cancer incidences have more than tripled, with an estimated 42,230 adults in the United States diagnosed with the disease annually. These and other studies to understand the molecular mechanisms orchestrating liver cancer progression pave the way towards effective treatments to combat the disease.

“Our results unravel a previously unexplored onco-fetal reprogramming of the tumor ecosystem, provide novel targets for therapeutic interventions in HCC, and open avenues for identifying similar paradigms in other cancers and disease,” wrote the authors.

 


Source: Cell.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
FEB 01, 2021
Microbiology
A Potential Leptospirosis Vaccine is Created
FEB 01, 2021
A Potential Leptospirosis Vaccine is Created
Spirochetes are a type of free-living, spiral-shaped bacteria, some of which are harmless and others that can cause dise ...
APR 19, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Insight Into the Molecular Basis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
APR 19, 2021
Insight Into the Molecular Basis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
New research has shown how variants in an immune gene can lead to a high risk of developing the autoimmune disorder rheu ...
MAY 10, 2021
Coronavirus
Researchers Create a Vaccine For Multiple SARS Viruses, Including COVID-19 & Variants
MAY 10, 2021
Researchers Create a Vaccine For Multiple SARS Viruses, Including COVID-19 & Variants
The pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 has changed the world in devastating ways, taking hundreds of thousands of lives & new var ...
MAY 11, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Gene Therapy Trial for Severe Immune Disorder is Successful
MAY 11, 2021
Gene Therapy Trial for Severe Immune Disorder is Successful
Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which virtually eliminates a patient's immune system, and severely affects thei ...
MAY 23, 2021
Health & Medicine
Paronychia: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?
MAY 23, 2021
Paronychia: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?
It's one of the most common infections of the hand that nail biters are all too familiar with. Better known as a han ...
JUN 15, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
An Early Warning System for Type 1 Diabetes in Children
JUN 15, 2021
An Early Warning System for Type 1 Diabetes in Children
In type 1 diabetes, or T1D, the body’s own immune system mistakenly launches an aggressive attack on insulin-produ ...
Loading Comments...