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Publications of the Week

Induction of Stable Human FOXP3+ Tregs by a Parasite-Derived TGF-β Mimic

By May 25, 2021May 31st, 2021No Comments

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This week we profile a recent publication in Immunology & Cell Biology from the laboratory of
Dr. Megan Levings (pictured, right) with first author Dr. Laura Cook (left) from the BC Children’s
Hospital Research Institute, and key collaborator Dr. Rick Maizels from the University of Glasgow.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

Our lab studies a population of white blood cells called regulatory T cells, which act like the police of the immune system by inhibiting the cells that drive auto-immune and auto-inflammatory diseases. Our goal is to develop cell therapies that harness the suppressive function of these regulatory T cells to treat human diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

Our immune system communicates largely through soluble “ messenger” molecules  one key molecule is called TGFbeta, which plays a critical role in ensuring we are able to tolerate harmless proteins from ourselves, our food and our healthy gut bacteria. We found that a common intestinal worm in mice makes a powerful mimic of TGFbeta, which switches off immune responses that would otherwise expel the parasite. We found that the parasite TGFbeta mimic protein is equally potent, and often more so, than our own TGFbeta, for the generation of immunosuppressive regulatory T cells that can dampen autoimmunity, providing the basis for developing this protein as a new therapeutic tool to treat a range of inflammatory diseases in humans.

What are the next steps for this research?

The development of humanized mouse models to test the function of the generated regulatory T cells in models of intestinal inflammation and assessing whether this novel TGFbeta mimic could be used as a direct therapy for inflammatory bowel disease patients.

This research was funded by:

A Synergy grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation (@KR_Foundation).

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