Scientists at the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center have developed a technique able to more efficiently isolate specific T-cells — immune cells involved not only in the fight against infections and cancer but also in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) — for research.
In particular, the new method may help to identify and characterize the specific T-cells participating in the abnormal immune responses against myelin that characterize MS, and to discover new ways of suppressing their activity. Myelin is the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers that is damaged in MS.
The technique and its potential applications were described in the study, “Droplet-based mRNA sequencing of fixed and permeabilized cells by CLInt-seq allows for antigen-specific TCR cloning,” published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
T-cells are a type of white blood cell that recognizes fragments of molecules, called antigens, through specific membrane receptors (TCRs). Each of these cells has unique TCRs that recognize a specific antigen.
This antigen can be, for instance, a fragment of a particular virus or bacterium, a specific type of cancer cell, or, in the case of autoimmune diseases, a particular molecule of a person’s own body promoting inadequate attacks against it.
When a T-cell encounters the antigen its receptor recognizes, it produces many copies of itself and instructs other immune cells to attack the same antigen.
“They’re both the effectors and organizers of the body’s adaptive immune response, which means they can be used as therapeutics and studying their dynamics can shed light on overall immune activity,” Pavlo Nesterenko, the study’s first author and a graduate student at UCLA, said in a university press release.
As such, increasing efforts have been made to develop methods to efficiently isolate specific T-cells, as this may help to better understand certain diseases and develop new therapeutic approaches.
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