Wistar Institute researchers in Philadelphia said they found a way to restore vigor to the killer T cells by blocking a key receptor on their surface. That finding, the scientists said, might advance the development of new therapies for fighting diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and cancer.
The researchers said they found using an antibody to block the receptor, known as programmed death-1, or PD-1, dramatically restored immunity in chronically infected mice. Furthermore, they discovered a method to distinguish between T cells that can be revitalized in such a manner from those that can't.
Assistant Professor E. John Wherry, who led the study, said the findings will help researchers develop PD-1 blocking agents, and also provide a way to select patients who might benefit most from such novel drugs.
The research appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.