New Protein That Inactivates The Immune Response Discovered
According to a new study conducted at Trinity College Dublin and published in the journal Nature Communication, a new “off switch” mechanism of the immune system was discovered. By manipulating this mechanism, either in terms of blocking or stimulation, scientists hope to treat autoimmune diseases which are caused by a over-stimulation of the immune system and also improve the effectiveness of various vaccines.
This off switch mechanism is represented by a protein called TMED7 which has the capacity to inactivate different parts of our own immune system after an infection was annihilated and eliminated from the body. By manipulating this new discovered protein, researchers can limit the response of the immune system so that they can prevent immune system to attack our own body .
“Without stop signals like TMED7 our immune system would continue to rage out of control long after the infection has been cleared, leading to diseases such as septic shock,” says Dr Anne McGettrick, the leader of the research team.
In some diseases such as Malaria and HIV, blocking the inhibitory activity TMED7 protein and increasing the activity of our immune system can have some advantages, as this two major world wide health problems do not benefit from effective vaccines, although there many studies in this direction.
Lack of response after vaccination is due to our own immune system that is not capable to produce a strong immune response to the vaccine, making the vaccine simply ineffective. Researchers hope that in the future they will be able to remove TMED7 protein from cells (this protein inhibit a compound of vaccines called TLR4) leading to a stronger and better response of the immune system, making vaccination against varoius infectious diseases more effective.
Other disorders that could also benefit from this type of discoveries are autoimmune disease, in which an over-stimulation of the immune system determines the attack of the body’s own structures. By manipulating TMED4 protein, which has the capacity to inhibit the immune system, scientists hope to be able to stop destructive processes caused by over-expression of the immune system in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, ankylosing spondylitis and other collagen diseases.
TMED7 represents the first studied member from a big family of proteins that are involved in the control and response of the human immune system. Researchers also discovered, certain proteins in some species of flies that are involved in the limitation of anti-bacterial response and are similar to TMED7 protein, showing that this family of proteins have been preserved throughout evolution.
Researchers are hoping that in the future they will be able to discover if other members of this big family of proteins are involved in the immune response and maybe will lead to a better understanding of the function of our immune system.