In a new development, Melbourne researchers have found a way to improve the immune response in the event of severe viral infections. Clinically, it is extensively known that cancer and severe viral infections can impair the immune system, including T cells, which in medical terminology is known as immune exhaustion. In fact, to overcome immune exhaustion is a key goal for the development of new line of treatment for severe viral infections or cancer.
The finding is a research initiative carried out by a team at University of Melbourne, and has led to identify the reason for immune exhaustion and how it can be overcome.
Previously, the team identified that during severe viral infection, while some T cells lost their infection and exhausted in a couple of days, others called Tpex cells maintained function for longer duration.
In fact, the idea to overcome exhaustion and make T cells better is at the heart of immunotherapy.
Meanwhile, clinically, immunotherapy works well, but it is effective for only 30 percent patients. Therefore, it required to discover a method to prime T cells differently to work efficiently in the long run, and to make immunotherapy effective for more people.
The recent paper on the research published in Immunity describes a mechanism that explains how Tpex cells can maintain fitness over long periods. Elaborately, the action mTOR – a nutrient sensor to coordinate cellular energy production and usage – is reduced in Tpex cells that were becoming exhausted. This means Tpex cells were able to slow their activity to be functional longer.
The discovery has the capability to improve success rate of immunotherapy, stated the lead researcher.