Wednesday , November 25 2020

A key to the immune system



The Viennese researchers found a mechanism to open or close the immune system. This may open up new pathways in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as cancer treatment and multiple sclerosis.

Judging the body's own weapons against tumors is the idea behind cancer immunotherapy. This approach was followed by a research team from the Austrian Academy of Sciences Molecular Biotechnology Institute (IMBA), together with their international colleagues. The human nervous system, the "hormones of happiness," examined a substance that played a real role in the dopamine and serotonin building blocks.

Two active substances regulate the immune system

The study shows that this hormone of happiness (BH4) stimulates the immune system of a building block. Because BH4 opens and closes T cells, the study's author, cell biologist Shane Cronin, says IMBA. "If there are too many BH4, the T cells are open, ready to fight and be aggressive," says Cronin.

The cell biologist and colleagues at the IMBA, Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg were able to identify the two active substances that use this mechanism and thus regulate the immune system. "BH4 is already on the market with a different purpose," says Cronin. The other active ingredient was discovered and tested by scientists themselves. You can now selectively turn T cells on and off.

IMBA video research results

Important candidate for cancer treatment

This makes BH4 an important candidate for future cancer immunotherapies, as it detects and fights cancer cells from activated T cells. Initial experiments on mice have already been successful. The other drug discovered by Cronin and his colleagues does the opposite: it regulates BH4 and causes the immune system to shut down.

By reducing BH4, Cronin can regulate overactive T cells that attack healthy cells in the body in autoimmune diseases. In inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, allergies and asthma, scientists have already succeeded in the mouse model. The new drug also calmed not only the BH4 and therefore the T cells, but also the entire immune system. Both therapeutic approaches, those against autoimmune diseases and cancer, will be clinically tested over the next few years.

Also considered as antidepressant

If they are successful in drug patients, they can be released within a few years. Meanwhile, Cronin wants to continue his research in another direction: BH4 wants to investigate in more detail the relationship between the immune system and the nervous system, as the "happiness hormone" affects serotonin and hence the mood of the people.

"Maybe we can increase the levels of serotonin in the brain with the same or similar drug," says Cronin. This is not only the treatment of depression, but also neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, so the scientist's hope.

Marlene Nowotny, Ö1-Wissenschaft

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