Discovery of a new protein which significantly enhances the number of cytotoxic T-cells

Six years in the making, a new discovery targeting the immune system with a newly discovered protein could be a game-changer in certain chronic diseases like cancer. Especially in the elderly since this category of patients tends to have increased deactivation of their t-cells as they contract infections and age.  Published online this last April 16 2015  in the journal Science,  the results of this study  has been heralded as a breakthrough.


Because cytotoxic T cells are usually overwhelmed by the cancer process which tends to grow exponentially and outnumber the T cells. With the proper expression of this protein’s gene, ten times more T cells could be produced, which could then seriously weaken if not reverse the cancer process.


By screening mice with genetic mutations, the Imperial team discovered a strain of mice that produced 10 times as many cytotoxic T cells when infected with a virus compared with normal mice. These mice suppressed the infection more effectively, and were more resistant to cancer. They also produced more of a second type of T cells, memory cells, enabling them to recognise infections they have encountered previously and launch a rapid response.


The mice with enhanced immunity produced high levels of a hitherto unknown protein, which the researchers named lymphocyte expansion molecule, or LEM. They went on to show that LEM modulates the proliferation of human T cells as well as in mice. This is significant because  cancer cells turn much of the body’s immuno-surveillance system off, leaving few T cells to  recognize the cancer and fight it.  T-cells effectively attack and poison cancer cell to death, but they are simply outnumber by the cancer cells.


The researchers now aim to develop a gene therapy designed to improve immunity by boosting the production of LEM. With the support of Imperial Innovations, the technology commercialisation company for the College, the researchers have filed two patents. A company called ImmunarT has been formed with the aim of commercialising the technology.

Because cancer cells have ways to suppress T cell activity, the imperial scientists hope to genetically engineering T cells to augment their ability to fight cancer by bypassing this suppressing mechanism.  Thereafter, with this new LEM protein, these scientists hope to introduce an active version of the LEM gene into the T cells of cancer patients,  thanks to which the patient may have ten times more T-cells engineered to bypass the cancer suppression mechanism.

This approach is based on the ability of the protein LEM to regulate specific energy circuits, and particularly mitochondrial respiration, in a subset of white blood cells known as cytotoxic T cells.  If successful,  many age related diseases involving altered immune and inflammatory responses will be able to be better addressed. These include chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, such as atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.  Ch. J.

 Okoye et al. ‘The protein LEM promotes CD8+ T cell immunity through effects on mitochondrial respiration.’ Science, 16 April 2015.
Protective CD8+ T cell–mediated immunity requires a massive expansion in cell number and the development of long-lived memory cells. Using forward genetics in mice, we identified an orphan protein named Lymphocyte Expansion Molecule (LEM) that promoted antigen-dependent CD8+ T cell proliferation, effector function, and memory cell generation in response to infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. Generation of LEM-deficient mice confirmed these results. Through interaction with CR6 interacting factor (CRIF1), LEM controlled the levels of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complexes and respiration resulting in the production of pro-proliferative mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species (mROS). LEM provides a link between immune activation and the expansion of protective CD8+ T cells driven by OXPHOS and represents a pathway for the restoration of long-term protective immunity based on metabolically modified CTL.
 2015 Copyright. All rights reserved. Christian Joubert. But the viewer is free to share this blog provided the author, the blog and the FB fan page are invoked in the attribution.
Disclaimer. This blog is educational and nothing therein should be construed to be medical advise.

Professor Joubert teaches how to extend a healthy cancer-free Lifespan to 122 years thanks to safe, efficient and cost friendly breakthrough protocols. Working on a documentary and book that redefines Medicine in light of new discoveries, ancient wisdoms, innovative research and holistic science, he can be nonetheless available to coach patients back to homeostasis, wellbeing & Joie de Vivre. On occasion, Pr. Joubert can also coach health professionals to better protect their holistic practice when they must deviate from outdated and-or irrational mainstream “standards of care” in order to genuinely serve their patients, evidence-strong Science and internationally recognized human rights. For details, see the links called “Contact” and “Mission” (under the “About” link).

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