JUN 08, 2021 6:00 AM PDT

Fueling the Immune System's Killers

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

There’s a group of “killers” protecting your body against infections and eliminating potentially cancerous tissues—natural killers, or NK cells, are first responders of the innate immune system. 

"There's a lot of interest right now in NK cells as a potential target of immunotherapy," says Joseph Sun, an NK cell expert leading studies into the complex physiology of these immune fighters. "The more we can understand what drives these cells, the better we can program them to fight disease."

Sun and colleagues were interested in NK metabolism, specifically whether these cells rely on aerobic glycolysis to fuel their protective activities, like their T cell counterparts. Insights into how NK cells are powered would help understand the mechanics of how these cells eliminate pathogens and tumors.

The team used an animal model to examine the biology of NK cells in an in vivo setting and found that NK cells go through a spike in aerobic glycolysis about five days before the same surge occurs in T cells.

These findings line up with the theory that NK cells are a critical part of mounting a rapid, early response to infections, insights that can be used towards developing more potent NK cell-based immunotherapies for cancer patients.

"If you're growing these cells in a dish and you push them to divide too rapidly, they may not have as much potential to undergo aerobic glycolysis when you put them into a patient," explained Sam Sheppard, another researcher on Sun’s team.

According to the scientists, researchers creating protocols for NK cell clinical trials should keep this in mind, finding a “sweet spot” between promoting the replication of NK cells for administration into the patient and preserving their energy to destroy tumors once inside the body.

 




Sources: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cell Reports.

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
JUN 28, 2021
Microbiology
Small Clinical Trial Suggests New Edible Cholera Vaccine Is Safe
JUN 28, 2021
Small Clinical Trial Suggests New Edible Cholera Vaccine Is Safe
According to WHO there have been six cholera pandemics since the pathogen emerged from the Ganges river delta sometime i ...
JUL 27, 2021
Health & Medicine
No Link Found Between Vaccinations and Increased Risk of Allergic Diseases
JUL 27, 2021
No Link Found Between Vaccinations and Increased Risk of Allergic Diseases
It is well known that allergies and asthma have been on the rise in developed nations where childhood mass vaccinations ...
AUG 10, 2021
Immunology
An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat
AUG 10, 2021
An Immune Molecule Helps Create 'Good' Fat
Not all fat is ‘bad’—there’s white fat that builds up when excess calories are consumed. But, th ...
AUG 25, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Sino Biological's Listing on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange
AUG 25, 2021
Sino Biological's Listing on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange
China, August 16, 2021 - Sino Biological, Inc. (“Sino Biological” or the “Company”), a biot ...
AUG 27, 2021
Health & Medicine
Blood Group and COVID-19 Susceptibility- An Ongoing Debate
AUG 27, 2021
Blood Group and COVID-19 Susceptibility- An Ongoing Debate
Since their discovery, there has been an interest in how ABO blood groups and infectious diseases may be related. In add ...
SEP 02, 2021
Immunology
Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells
SEP 02, 2021
Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells
Innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs, are specialized immune cells that are increasingly entering the research spotlight. Thes ...
Loading Comments...