Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Subduing the Storm

A network of actin filaments in the immune cell nucleus regulates the production of immune proteins

09 March 2019

Subduing the Storm

When your immune system is needed, its soldiers patrolling your body must receive the signal to spring into action. This alarm signal triggers the production of cytokines – small proteins that prompt the defence cells to proliferate and tackle the particular problem. But we haven’t quite deciphered this coded call to arms. New research has shown how the formation of a network of actin filaments in the immune cell nucleus – pictured 30 seconds after cell stimulation – regulates cytokine production. This discovery not only decodes a key step in our regular immune response to the threats of the world, but may also help cancer patients receiving immunotherapy. Immunotherapy treatment harnesses the patient’s own immune system to subdue cancer, but can cause harmful ‘cytokine storms’ when an overzealous immune system produces cytokines at an unmanageable rate. This cytokine-regulating network could be the key to keeping things under control.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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