Researchers led by Vera Martins, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência principal investigator, identified a group of cells that regulates the development of a particular type of cells of the immune system – the T lymphocytes.
The study published in Cell Reports demonstrates that the development of T lymphocytes lays on the coordination of signals followed by cells in order to ensure the maintenance of a healthy organism. The cells identified in the study integrate information regarding the needs of more mature cells and define their own development accordingly: adjusting the speed of the production of T lymphocytes and purging the system of other less efficient cells, that tend to cause leukaemia.
The development of T lymphocytes is a tightly regulated process that aims at producing cells that protect the organism. However, these cells can also accumulate errors and cause cancer. Blood cell cancers, which include T lymphocytes, are called leukaemia. In the case of this study, the focus was on T cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and how it is normally prevented. This type of leukaemia is quite aggressive and, despite rare, it severely impacts mostly children, albeit affecting some adults.
In this study, researchers focus was on T cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and how it is normally prevented. This type of leukaemia is quite aggressive and, despite rare, it severely impacts mostly children, albeit affecting some adults.
The study reveals that the development of T lymphocytes in a healthy thymus is not merely achieved because cells follow a pre-determined path of extrinsic signals. Rather, it is achieved through the integration of external signals and intrinsic properties of the cells that contribute to the normal functioning of the thymus.
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