Monday , January 18 2021

Immune system switch



Viennese researchers have discovered mechanisms to turn the immune system on and off. This can open up new avenues for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Behind cancer immunotherapy is the idea of ​​determining the body's weapons against the tumor. This approach involves a team of researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) with international colleagues. They actually tested dopamine and serotonin, the "happy hormones," substances that play an important role in the human nervous system.

Two active substances regulate the immune system.

This study shows that this hormone, BH4, activates the immune system. Because BH4 turns T cells on and off, says cell biologist Shane Cronin of IMBA, the lead author of the study. "With a lot of BH4, T cells turn on and are ready to fight and become aggressive," says Croon.

Cell biologists and colleagues at IMBA, Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute Heidelberg have used this mechanism to identify two active substances that regulate the immune system. "BH4 is already on the market for another purpose," says Cronin. Other active ingredients have been discovered and tested by scientists. Now you can selectively turn T cells on or off.

IMBA Video on Research Results

An important candidate for cancer treatment

When activated T cells detect and fight cancer cells, BH4 becomes an important candidate for future cancer immunotherapy. Early experiments on mice have already been successful. Other drugs discovered by Cronin and his colleagues control BH4 and stop the immune system.

By reducing BH4, Cronin says it can regulate hypersensitive T cells that attack healthy cells in the body in autoimmune diseases. Inflammatory bowel disease In ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, allergies and asthma, scientists have already been successful in mouse models. The new drug not only blocks BH4 and T cells, it also calms the entire immune system. Both autoimmune and cancer treatment will be clinically tested within the next few years.

You can also think of it as an antidepressant.

If the drug is successful for the patient, it can be on the market within a few years. Cronin, on the other hand, wants BH4 to better investigate the relationship between the immune system and the nervous system, since BH4 affects "happy hormone" serotonin and mood.

"Perhaps we can use the same or similar drugs to increase serotonin levels in the brain," Cronin says. This is the hope of scientists as it can lead to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease as well as the treatment of depression.

Marlene Nowotny, Ö1-Wissenschaft

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