Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Immune system: What do natural (born) killers really do?

Date:
February 23, 2011
Source:
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Summary:
Our immune systems contain three fundamentally different types of cell: B-cells, T-cells and the mysteriously named Natural Killer cells (NK cells), which are known to be involved in killing tumor cells and other infected cells. Experiments to investigate the function of NK cells have proven difficult to interpret because the interactions between the various components of the immune system make it almost impossible to isolate effects of individual cell types. This has changed with the development of a mouse in which individual genes can be knocked out (eliminated) only in NK cells, thereby providing scientists with a tool to study the importance of NK cells and indeed of individual pathways in these cells.

Our immune systems contain three fundamentally different types of cell: B-cells, T-cells and the mysteriously named Natural Killer cells (NK cells), which are known to be involved in killing tumor cells and other infected cells. Experiments to investigate the function of NK cells have proven difficult to interpret because the interactions between the various components of the immune system make it almost impossible to isolate effects of individual cell types.

This has changed with the development of a mouse in which individual genes can be knocked out (eliminated) only in NK cells, thereby providing scientists with a tool to study the importance of NK cells and indeed of individual pathways in these cells.

The mouse was generated by the research group of Veronika Sexl. Sexl had recently moved from the Medical University of Vienna to the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. An initial characterization is presented in the current issue of the journal Blood.

The development of a tool alone would not normally generate headlines but this case is different: the new mouse can be used to knock out any gene completely and exclusively in NK cells. It thus permits researchers to examine the functions of NK cells in the entire organism or even to investigate the importance of individual genes in this particular cell-type.

Sexl has used the tool already herself. She has been able to show that a particular transcription factor known as Stat5 is essential for the correct development of NK cells -- when this factor is eliminated, the cells fail to develop properly.

The upshot is a mouse with an immune system that lacks NK cells but is otherwise fully intact. This is the first time it has proven possible to remove this particular cell type without affecting the rest of the animal. So it is finally possible to learn what NK cells actually do in an intact organism.

Sexl and her collaborators have shown that mice lacking NK cells have normal T-cell responses to tumors, although their NK cell-mediated responses are naturally dramatically reduced. This experiment shows conclusively that the mouse can be used to untangle the web of interactions among the various cells of the immune system.

Sexl's work has immediate implications for the treatment of cancer in humans. As an example, leukemia is sometimes treated by inhibiting the STAT5 protein. Sexl's findings make it clear that this approach has a real drawback: inhibition of STAT5 will lead to a drop in the number of NK cells and so interfere with one of the body's own mechanisms for fighting the cancer. It will be important to assess whether NK cells normally play a part in fighting diseases before inhibiting STAT5. For the first time, the newly developed mouse provides a tool to do so.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. Eckelhart, W. Warsch, E. Zebedin, O. Simma, D. Stoiber, T. Kolbe, T. Rulicke, M. Mueller, E. Casanova, V. Sexl. A novel Ncr1-Cre mouse reveals the essential role of STAT5 for NK-cell survival and development. Blood, 2010; 117 (5): 1565 DOI: 10.1182/blood-2010-06-291633

Cite This Page:

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Immune system: What do natural (born) killers really do?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110222083155.htm>.
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. (2011, February 23). Immune system: What do natural (born) killers really do?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110222083155.htm
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "Immune system: What do natural (born) killers really do?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110222083155.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins