George Washington University is one of the pioneering institutions of research and the latest publication in the Nature Immunology, Dr. Weiqun Peng has paved the way for strengthening the immune system on our bodies through a unique an innovative study conducted by him along with his research student Zhouhao Zeng. This is a collaborative study conducted by Dr. Peng contributed by his counterparts in the University of Iowa. In this study Dr. Peng and his team have succeeded in unlocking a major part of the mystery surrounding the T- cell identification, and how these cells determine their roles in fighting infections as a part of the immune system activity.
It is a known fact the white blood cells called as T- cells act as the primary line of defense against pathogens and infections in our body. These act like soldiers in an army in identifying and destroying the invading viruses, bacteria and other parasites that pose danger to our bodies. These T-cells act in multiple ways and have the capability to find and destroy infected cells and create suitable anti-bodies to neutralize their potential threats. They even remember the germs and the infections our body encountered long ago and act swiftly to eradicate the infectious activities.
We see that our body is subjected to various types of infections and some of them are strong enough to counter act the T- cells and interfere with their normal action. Thus the immune system is not able to fight the infections and our body gets into the grip of diseases and infections. Many studies are being conducted throughout the world to study how the disease causing bacteria and viruses are able to get past the T- cells and how they are inactivated by these dangerous pathogens.
Dr. Peng’s study proceeded on the premise that many diseases affect our bodies by causing serious disturbances in the delicate balance of different types of T- cells in our bodies. The team went on to understand how these different T- cells are formed and once this is understood it will be possible to manipulate the T- cell creation mechanism of the body thereby strengthen the immune system to fight against auto immune and other diseases in an effective manner.
The research team under Dr. Peng found that there are two types of T- cells CD-4 helper cells and CD- 8 killer T- cells. These function in distinct ways as the helper T- cells are engaged in the detection, identification and triggering the immune response to infecting invaders while the Killer T- cells actually fight the infections in our bodies and destroy the infecting cells and fight off illnesses caused by them.
Until the publication of the Paper by Dr. Peng the researchers were not able to fully understand how the T- Cells determined their way of function as a helper or a killer T-Cell and what contributed and aided this process. Dr. Peng’s team was successful in finding the real mechanism behind this process and revealed that how the transcription factors a complex type of protein play a very vital role in the determination of the role of the T- cells in our immune system.
Dr. Peng says in his research paper that these Transcription factors act as on – off switches that control the genes in our cells and these have different types of transcription patterns in their gene expressions. This makes them more or less active. Dr. Peng’s team successfully identified two types of transcription factors TCF1 and LEF 1 and these are the real factors that determine the pattern that decides the identity and function of killer cells. The research team has also found that when these patterns are disrupted these killer cells become helper cells, and this process depends more on intrinsic enzyme related activities having a strong influence on the epigenetic make up of these T- Cells.
Thus the research team at the George Washington University has established a significant perspective on the gene regulation that can be used for manipulating and strengthening the human immune system to ward off most of the auto immune diseases. This research has removed the conventional thought of considering the epigenetic regulators and the transcription factors as separate entities, and clearly established the real link between them.
It is now clearly established that the CD4 and CD8 have an important role in the maintenance of our immune system and when their ratio is disrupted then the immune system loses its ability to fight these diseases.
So, the path for further ways of developing the right strategies to turn on or off the T- cell differentiation process, and finding the right drugs to satisfy a higher level of molecular target to tone up the human immune system is open now.