Saturday January 25, 2020

Bioinformatics Method to be Used to Study Communication Between Cells

0
//
cells
The method, called NicheNet, helps researchers gain insight into how the gene expression of cells is regulated by interacting cells. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Do you know how a cell interacts with the other? The way you do on Twitter. Now, computational biologists have developed a new bioinformatics method to better study communication between cells.

The method, called NicheNet, helps researchers gain insight into how the gene expression of cells is regulated by interacting cells.

Studying intercellular communication is not only important to understand fundamental biology, but also to gain insights into diseases like cancer.

Interactions between cancer cells and others in the microenvironment of the tumour are crucial for its growth.

Led by Professor Ivan Saeys from VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research in Belgium developed this new bioinformatics method.

NicheNet has a broad range of potential applications in fields like immunology and tumour biology, say researchers.

cells
Computational biologists have developed a new bioinformatics method to better study communication between cells. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Researchers used the method to study Kupffer cells, a macrophage in the liver blood stream. They generated a lot of gene expression data of all cells involved.

“But, using this type of data to unravel how a cell communicates is not a trivial task”, said Saeys. “We needed to develop a new sophisticated algorithm to tackle this problem”.

Researchers were able to experimentally validate some of the signals that NicheNet predicted.

“Thanks to NicheNet, we looked into factors that we would not have thought about ourselves”, confirms Martin Guilliams from VIB-Ghent University, who works in close collaboration with the Saeys lab.

“For us, NicheNet was an essential tool to help unravel the Kupffer cell niche”.

In addition to the Kupffer cell story, the team has also been applying NicheNet to investigate cell-cell communication in the tumour microenvironment.

Also Read- Investors in Vietnam to be More Cautious With Investing in Tech Startups

“We used NicheNet on single-cell data that was published earlier, but we are now working on novel single-cell datasets generated by collaborating research groups,” said Saeys in a paper published in the journals Nature Methods and Immunity.

An example of a process in which intercellular communication is essential, is the differentiation of macrophages, a type of immune cell. This process is affected by other cell types in the environment, or “niche”, of the macrophage. (IANS)

Next Story

Subset of Immune Cells May Kill Cancerous Cells: Study

Study finds 'helper' cells that can kill cancerous tumours

0
Cancerous cells
Researchers have identified how a subset of immune cells are activated to kill cancerous cells, which could hold the key to new powerful therapies against cancer. Pixabay

In a major breakthrough, researchers have identified how a subset of immune cells are activated to kill cancerous cells, which could hold the key to new powerful therapies against cancer.

This new study built on previous research which found that following immunotherapy some CD4+ T cells, traditionally thought to be ‘helper’ and ‘regulator’ immune cells, become cytotoxic and directly engage with and kill cancer cells.

Published in the journal Immunity, the research team from University College London, examined the molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning this activity, as part of an experimental study of immunotherapy in mice.

Researchers found that IL-2, a ‘growth factor’ for T cells and the ‘transcription factor’ Blimp-1 are responsible for initiating potent killer activity in CD4+ T cells within cancerous tumours.

“We knew these immune cells had the ability to proactively kill cancer cells with incredible potency, but to maximise their potential, we needed to know how this mechanism was activated,” said study co-lead author Sergio Quezada.

cancerous
“We knew these immune cells had the ability to proactively kill cancerous cells with incredible potency, but to maximise their potential, we needed to know how this mechanism was activated,” said study co-lead author Sergio Quezada. Pixabay

“Our discovery provides the evidence and rationale for utilising Blimp-1 to maximise the anti-tumour activity of CD4+ T cells,” Quezada added.

Work is now underway in our lab to develop new personalised cell therapies where the activity of Blimp-1 can be maxed up to drive potent tumour control, the researchers said.

According to the study, T cells are a subset of lymphocytes (white blood cells), which play a key role in the body’s immune response. In immunotherapy T cells are modified and used to attack cancer.

These cells move around our bodies, looking for infected cells and killing them.

However, T cells do not recognise most cancers, since cancers develop from our own tissues and appear normal to most T cells, the research said.

The main challenge with T cell immunotherapy approaches is to find ways to direct T cells to attack cancer cells.

Also Read- Posting About Depression on Facebook May Not be Helpful: Study

“Cellular therapies have only recently entered the mainstream in terms of clinical application. Our findings broaden our understanding of the regulators of T cell differentiation, illuminating new elements that might be targeted to enhance therapeutic efficacy,” said study researcher Karl Peggs from the University College London in UK.

According to the researchers, the study like this helps scientists understand better the intricacies of our immune system and how it can be utilised to kill cancer cells. (IANS)