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TCD scientists find 'off switch' in immune response

Researchers have identified a protein in human cells that could provide new insights in our understanding of the our immune system.

File photo
File photo
Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

SCIENTISTS AT Trinity College Dublin have discovered a new “off switch” related to immune response that could provide new insights in our understanding of the human immune system.

The team found that the protein, named TMED7, shut down part of the immune system once an infection in a body had been eliminated over the course of the study – which was funded by Health Research Board, Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland and carried out in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

Manipulating this “stop switch” could be beneficial by helping to reduce the immune system’s response by preventing it from attacking our own bodies, the researchers said.

“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,” explained Dr Anne McGettrick.

The teams said that, in certain cases, removing stop signals and boosting our immune system can be advantageous – explaining that several diseases (such as Malaria and HIV) are lacking good vaccines and research laboratories.

“Removing TMED7 from our cells could help boost our immune response to vaccines thus making the vaccines much more effective,” says Dr Sarah Doyle, lead author on the publication.

TMED7 is part of a family of proteins and is the first of that group to be linked to the regulating of our immune systems. The research team says that further study will reveal if other proteins within that group could play key roles in immunity.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications

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