Researchers discover new immune system molecule that can help or harm health

Researchers have identified a new member of the important B7 family of immune system “co-stimulators.” Co-stimulators are molecules that are capable of turning the immune system on or off — and in the process, profoundly affecting human health. Mayo Clinic researchers named this newest molecule B7-H4. It inhibits the action of T cells, the immune system warriors whose basic job is to attack invaders. Turning off T cells helps transplant patients accept foreign organs. But turning off T cells harms cancer patients — their tumors continue to grow without defensive attacks by T cells. The Mayo Clinic report appears in the June 17 issue of Immunity.

Researchers Identify Cause of Aggressive Childhood Cancer

Researchers have generated a mouse model of a new type of tumor suppressor gene that triggers a rapidly advancing cancer that affects children. The discovery of the fast-onset cancers that result from inactivation of the gene and the technique used to generate the model will likely prove useful in studying genes involved in other forms of cancer.

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