Researchers have made a breakthrough that could help with designing and engineering more efficient T cells to fight cancer, according to the University of Dundee.
A team at the university, working alongside the University of Cambridge, said their work has unveiled how “assassin” immune cells are able keep on killing as they hunt down cancer in the body.
They studied Cytotoxic T cells that are trained by the immune system to recognise and eliminate threats.
This includes tumour cells and those infected with invading viruses.
Gillian Griffiths, from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, who led the study, said: “T cells are trained assassins that are sent on their deadly missions by the immune system.
“Once a T cell has found its target, it binds to it and releases its toxic cargo. But what is particularly remarkable is that they are then able to go on to kill and kill again.”
The study, published in Science, shows that the refuelling of the T cells’ toxic weapons is regulated by mitochondria.
Mitochondria are often referred to as a cell’s batteries as they provide the energy that power their function.
The breakthrough could help in the designing and engineering of more efficient T cells to fight cancer.
Researchers utilised cutting-edge mass spectrometry-based proteomics at the University of Dundee’s Fingerprints Proteomics Facility.
Dr Julia Marchingo, from the School of Life Sciences, said: “The state-of-the-art proteomics technology available here in the University of Dundee enabled accurate mapping of the proteins that changed when T cells have defective mitochondria.”
Professor Doreen Cantrell, laboratory leader of the Dundee collaborative work, added: “Having this top-of-the-line technological capability here in Dundee means that scientists in academia and industry from all over the UK come to us for our expertise.
“This creates really exciting collaborative opportunities to make important discoveries in both basic science and clinical research.”