New research has uncovered an important mechanism in the drive to understand immunological processes that protect us against infection, allergy and cancer.
Researchers from the University's Institute for Life Science (IfLS) have been collaborating with Microsoft Research UK to investigate the function of the antigen-presenting protein MHC1. They explored the pliability of the protein and how its ability to shape-shift dictates its function. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Principal Investigator Tim Elliott, from the IfLS, said: "This protein acts as a molecular interface between your body and your immune system. It alerts your immune system to the fact that the body has been infected by a virus or invaded by cancer, and guides white blood cells to kill them. What we have discovered is that it can only perform these vital functions if it is allowed to "wriggle" in a particular way. We also discovered that, because it is a pliable molecule, different parts of the protein communicate with one another - if we touch it in one place, the function in a distant part of the molecule changes. These findings are of real interest to both immunologists who are developing new immunotherapies for diseases and biology as a whole. They have generated real interest in the healthcare industry."
The team's discoveries could have a major impact on the future of medical treatment and in the long term could see the development of cancer immunotherapies and vaccines against infection. It could also help to reduce allergies such as contact hypersensitivity by understanding how the additives used in healthcare products are detected by the immune system.
Based on material originally posted by University of Southampton.(Image source)