IMAGE: This is an illustration showing interactions between components of the AH10-7 compound (yellow), an immune system antigen-presenting cell (gray), and an invariant natural killer T cell (green and blue) that… view more
Credit: Jose Gascon/UConn
Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are powerful weapons our body’s immune systems count on to fight infection and combat diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Finding ways to spark these potent cells into action could lead to more effective cancer treatments and vaccines.
While several chemical compounds have shown promise stimulating iNKT cells in mice, their ability to activate human iNKT cells has been limited.
Now, an international team of top immunologists, molecular biologists, and chemists led by University of Connecticut chemistry professor Amy Howell reports in Cell Chemical Biology the creation of a new compound that appears to have the properties researchers have been looking for.
The compound – a modified version of an earlier synthesized ligand – is highly effective in activating human iNKT cells. It is also selective – encouraging iNKT cells to release a specific set of proteins known as Th1 cytokines – that stimulate anti-tumor immunity.
One of the limitations of earlier compounds was their tendency
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