Scientists' discovery offers hope: A protein can cure or prevent cancer and autoimmune diseases
By turning on and off the protein DECTIN-1, which protects against fungal infections, you can choose the way the immune system reacts.
The protein in the immune system programmed to protects the body from fungal infections is also responsible for worsening some autoimmune diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, type 1 diabetes, eczema and other chronic diseases, it shows new research on scientists from the Australian National University. This discovery, published in "Science Advances", could pave the way for the creation of new and more effective drugs without the serious side effects of existing treatments.
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown function of a protein known as DECTIN-1, which in a muted state limits the production of T cells, or so-called guard cells in the immune system.
These cells are key to preventing autoimmune diseases because they suppress the effects of an overactive immune system, which can be extremely dangerous if not properly regulated.
The immune system protects the body from infections, but in extreme cases it becomes overactive and prompts the body's defense system to fight against itself, writes MedicalXpress.
– When this happens, the immune system mistakenly recognizes healthy cells as a threat, leading to an attack on the body and causing an autoimmune disease. Although the protein DECTIN-1 helps fight fungal infections, in its suppressed state it is also responsible for worsening severe autoimmune diseases. "If we understand how and why a muted version of this protein causes autoimmune disease in patients, we will be one step closer to developing effective drugs and offer new hope to more than a million Australians who suffer from autoimmune disease," said Dr. Cynthia Turnbull from the Australian National university.
Scientists believe they can control the immune system by turning the DECTIN-1 protein on and off.
– The inclusion of proteins would reduce the intensity of the immune system's defenses, which could be used to treat autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, the exclusion of the protein could increase the intensity of the immune system and strengthen the defense mechanism to treat a completely different type of disease - said Prof. Carol Venus of the Francis Crick Institute.
Dr. Turnbull believes that all of this means that DECTIN-1 may play a key role in cancer treatment.
– Cancer cells can camouflage themselves by releasing certain proteins and chemicals into the body, essentially making them invisible to the immune system's natural defenses. We believe that using drugs to turn off the DECTIN-1 protein, in combination with existing therapies, can activate the immune system and help it identify and attack cancer cells, she said.