Immune system fighters speak in patterns of proteins, prefer squishy partners

October 26, 2012

When talking to the key immune system fighters known as T-cells, it helps to speak their language. Now researchers from Columbia University in New York, N.Y., and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have discovered two new conditions for communication that may help scientists one day harness the power of T-cells to fight diseases such as cancer. The team will present its findings at the AVS 59th International Symposium and Exhibition, held Oct. 28 - Nov. 2 in Tampa, Fla.

T-cells flow freely throughout the body and communicate with their partner T-cells, in part, through signals expressed in proteins on their surfaces. But unlike other freely circulating cells, T-cells are a bit more touchy-feely. "They stick to each other; they kind of crawl on each other," says lead researcher Lance Kam, a biomedical engineer at Columbia University. The cells spread onto each other; they put new proteins into the interface between them. And these proteins at the interface, Kam continues, "organize into some really beautiful patterns." One arrangement is shaped like a bulls-eye.

Kam's team wanted to find out whether the spacing of the proteins in these cellular tete-a-tetes plays a part in the communication process, and whether the squishiness or rigidity of the cells has any effect on the conversation. Using a custom-made artificial cell, they tested whether the real T-cells "liked" certain configurations of proteins on its surface. Not only did the team find that the spacing of the signaling proteins mattered for the proper activation of T-cells, but the rigidity of the surface mattered as well. Mouse cells - like most cells - preferred a more rigid surface, but human T-cells liked squishier partners.

Knowing that these two conditions figure into T-cell activation may help drug researchers design optimal T-cell habitats in which to grow huge T-cell armies to fight cancers and other diseases. While this reality is several years away, the two new findings that the team presents will help advance the harnessing of T-cells for immunotherapy. This type of cancer treatment involves removing a patient's T-cells, expanding their numbers, training them to recognize cancer cells, and re-injecting this fortified army back into the patient. Understanding what kind of partner the T-cells prefer could help to make this process more effective.

"We think that by learning more about the natural interface, the natural signals that activate the cells, we can get better control over the cell expansion process," Kam says, resulting in larger production of high-quality T-cells that can fight cancer.
-end-
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE AVS 59th INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM & EXHIBITION

The Tampa Convention Center is located along the Riverwalk in the heart of downtown Tampa at 333 S. Franklin St., Tampa, Florida, 33602.

USEFUL LINKS:

Main meeting website: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS59/pages/greetings.html

Technical Program: http://www.avssymposium.org/

Housing and Travel Information: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS59/pages/housing_travel.html

PRESS REGISTRATION

The AVS Pressroom will be located in the Tampa Convention Center. Your complimentary media badge will allow you to utilize the pressroom to write, interview, collect new product releases, review material, or just relax. The media badge will also admit you, free of charge, into the exhibit area, lectures, and technical sessions, as well as the Welcome Mixer on Monday evening and the Awards Ceremony and Reception on Wednesday night. Pressroom hours are Monday-Thursday, 8-5 p.m.

To register, please contact:

Della Miller, AVS
E-mail: della@avs.org

This news release was prepared for AVS by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

ABOUT AVS

Founded in 1953, AVS is a not-for-profit professional society that promotes communication between academia, government laboratories, and industry for the purpose of sharing research and development findings over a broad range of technologically relevant topics. Its symposia and journals provide an important forum for the dissemination of information in many areas of science and technology, enabling a critical gateway for the rapid insertion of scientific breakthroughs into manufacturing realities.

American Institute of Physics

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.