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La Jolla Institute discovers new player critical to unleashing T cells against disease
Date:6/23/2013

SAN DIEGO (June 23, 2013) A major study from researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology provides new revelations about the intricate pathways involved in turning on T cells, the body's most important disease-fighting cells, and was published today in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

The La Jolla Institute team is the first to prove that a certain type of protein, called septins, play a critical role in activating a calcium channel on the surface of the T cell. The channel is the portal through which calcium enters T cells from the blood stream, an action essential for the T cell's survival, activation, and ability to fight disease.

Patrick Hogan and Anjana Rao, Ph.D.s, are senior authors on the paper and Sonia Sharma and Ariel Quintana, Ph.D.s, are co-first authors. Drs. Sharma, Rao and Hogan are former researchers at Harvard Medical School with high-level genetics expertise who joined the La Jolla Institute in 2010. Dr. Quintana conducted advanced microscopy that was a major aspect of the study.

Dr. Hogan describes the discovery as another important step in understanding the overall functioning of T cells knowledge from which new, more precisely targeted drugs to treat diseases ranging from cancer to viral infections can emerge. "It's like working on an engine, you have to know what all the parts are doing to repair it," he says. "We want to understand the basic machinery inside a T cell. This will enable us to target the specific pressure points to turn up a T cell response against a tumor or virus or to turn it down in the case of autoimmune diseases."

The findings were published in a Nature paper entitled "An siRNA screen for NFAT activation identifies septins as coordinators of store-operated Ca2+ entry."

"We have found that the septin protein is a very strong regulator of the calcium response, which is essential for activating immune cells," says Dr
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Contact: Bonnie Ward
contact@liai.org
619-991-0868
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Source:Eurekalert

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