Researchers in BPRC's Alternative Methods Unit have discovered a new route for regulating the innate immune system. This is important, because many therapies for serious diseases focus on either activating or inhibiting the immune system.
The human body has an innate immune system. The oldest part of our immune system allows us to respond quickly and adequately to all sorts of pathogens. This innate immune system is very powerful. When the system becomes overstimulated or malfunctions, this can lead to unwanted effects, ranging from tissue damage to autoimmune diseases. 'It's therefore important that the activation process is strictly regulated,' says Jeffrey Bajramovic, head of BPRC's Alternative Methods Unit.
Read more about how the immune system works here.
For their research, our scientists worked mostly with human cells obtained from blood from blood donors, as well as with cells from rhesus macaques. 'We exposed these cells to various pathogens, in combination with molecules that block certain receptors,' Jeffrey explains. 'One of these receptors, the adenosine A3 receptor, turned out to be unexpectedly important in triggering a good innate immune response, which might be able to restrain certain pathogens.'
Further research indicated that without a good innate response, the later adaptive immune response will also be compromised, which is important for the body's immunological memory. Jeffrey: 'We have also succeeded in unravelling the underlying signalling routes. This has allowed us to identify an entire new family of molecules which are involved in regulating the innate immune system, resulting in more therapeutic goals to work on in future.'
It should be noted that these findings do not apply to mice, one of the test animals that immunology researchers often use. 'They probably have an innate immune system that is regulated differently. This is further proof of the fact that the less closely related animal species are in an evolutionary sense, the more difficult it is to say whether findings are applicable to humans.'
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