Towards Tuning the Immune System

Researchers are making good progress towards control over immune cells, and future goals seems likely to be applicable to the restoration of some function to an age-damaged immune system. Researchers have identified "seven different receptors on T cells that can tamp down immune responses during a prolonged battle with an infectious pathogen or against developing cancer. Chronic over-stimulation of the immune system can lead to poor control of infections and cancer, so the results explain why it is that these key immune cells gradually become 'exhausted' and ineffective over time
. ... We are starting to see a picture emerging of a really tuneable array of inhibitory receptors expressed on T cells. That suggests it may be possible to not only dramatically enhance antiviral or antitumor T cell responses, but also to fine tune which response you want to enhance in order to reverse T cell exhaustion and continue fighting an infection or disease. This presents us with a great clinical opportunity. T cells have a lot of weapons at their disposal to control viral infection and most of them are disarmed when these cells become exhausted. It may be possible to selectively rearm T cells while generally reinvigorating them."