T-cells have been researched under various scopes, especially since they are the primary defenses the body uses to fight off infections and attacks. However, no group has previously researched the specific role and action of antioxidants found in T-cells.
Well, not until recently when a group of LIH (Luxembourg Institute of Health) scientists discovered the unique way in which the human immune system uses molecular mechanisms to activate the immune cells. T-cells are known to play a very important role in immunity.
They grow, divide, and fight off foreign compounds and organisms when needed. This usually happens when they come into contact with pathogens. They basically remain in an alert form of hibernation, consuming very little energy as they wait for a chance to protect the body from attacks.
New T Cell Studies
Professor Dirk Brenner and his team of researchers at the LIH discovered that T cells which express the gene Gclc are very effective in fighting pathogens, much more so than those that do not express the gene. Gclc is a gene that encodes a particular protein instrumental in the synthesis of glutathione, a molecule that is commonly associated with the removal of waste products and harmful residue of metabolism.
Glutathione is known to remove residues such as ROS (reactive oxygen species) and free radicals that are formed during metabolism. Until now, this was the only function associated with glutathione, but the new study led by Professor Brenner now indicates otherwise.
From their analysis, glutathione also stimulates energy metabolism of T cells, making it a very important switch that can send the immune system into action. The new discovery is already drawing remarkable attention as it brings some hope with regards to treating autoimmune diseases, such as cancer.
It indeed offers the starting points researchers and doctors can use to develop therapeutic studies that target these degenerative diseases. The research findings were published in the medical journal Immunity.
As explained by Professor Brenner, the body has to maintain the immune system at a balanced equilibrium to avoid the extreme ends. If the innate defenses become overactive, they cause a counteractive effect that is against the body and often manifests in various diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
When the innate defenses are extremely weak, they will fail to handle and fight off infections. This can result in the uncontrolled proliferation of body cells causing tumors and cancers that are life-threatening.
The T cells, therefore, lie in an inactive yet alert state, consuming minimal energy. When pathogens attack the body, the T cells immediately activate and their metabolism increases, a process that is often marked by significant amounts of ROS, free radicals, and other metabolic waste products.
The great amount of waste can be toxic to the T cells, which is why they produce more antioxidants (glutathione) to prevent poisoning. It was while researching this function of glutathione that Professor Brenner's group discovered more functions of the molecule other than garbage collection and disposal.
In the study, they discovered that glutathione also switches up the metabolism of T cells and controls immune responses. It is, therefore, of high relevance when it comes to treating various diseases.
According to Professor Markus Ollert’s comments, the results can form a basis to intervene in the process of immune cell metabolism and develop a new generation of immune-therapies. Professor Markus is LIH’s Dept. of Infection and Immunity director.
Research Findings In Mice
The scientists used mice for their investigations. Some of the mice were genetically modified to prevent their T cells from expressing Gclc and synthesizing glutathione. In these specimens, they discovered that the control of viruses was completely impaired as they suffered acute immunodeficiency.
As expected, these mice were also safe from autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, which is usually caused by overactive defenses. Professor Brenner and his team conducted further results to explain this phenomenon.
As he described it, the mice’s lack of ability to produce any glutathione inherently impacts other signaling events that are involved in boosting metabolism and increasing energy consumption. This causes the T cells to remain inactive, eliminating any chances of self-destructive overactive autoimmune responses.
The findings of Professor Brenner have surprised many, especially those related to how cellular metabolism affects immune activation. Professor Karsten Hiller of Braunschweig UOT (University of Technology) expressed how intrigued he was at how these two were tightly entangled. He commented at the fact that a “fine-grained” interplay is needed for correct function to be achieved.
Although this was the first study to look into the function of antioxidants in T cells, Prof Brenner sees it as a prelude to more in the future. In depth investigation is still required to study the energy balance of T cells and other immune cells.
There are several autoimmune diseases that occur directly as a result of malfunctions with different T cell subgroups. According to Professor Brenner, the key lies in understanding the differences that exist in molecular mechanisms that immune cells use to stimulate their metabolism during either autoimmune or defensive mechanisms.
This will make it easier to identify the precise attack points that can be targeted for therapeutic agents if immune response intervention is to be achieved. Professor Brenner also identified the same consistency with autoimmune diseases like cancer.
He pondered how the immune cells that are supposed to fight off cancer tend to have the lowest metabolic states, and even suppress other immune responses that stir up against the tumor. If the relationship is understood, it may become possible to implement counteractive metabolic stimulation that can make the cells fight off cancer more efficiently and effectively.
Master Detox Molecule Gclc Gene & Glutathione Boosts Immune Defenses Final Words
Professor Brenner and his team of researchers are already planning for future investigations that can identify the potential attack points for immune therapy agents. If these studies are successful, treatment of autoimmune diseases and even defensive ones may begin to take new shape towards improved efficiency and effectiveness.
Nonetheless, as he explained, more research and investigation is needed on the subject to ensure the right therapies and strategies are developed. It is important to acknowledge the differences that exist between animal and human immune systems and how they fight off various attacks in the body.
Fortunately, researchers already know how to make the transition and this should not be a daunting task.