Study identifies disease protein

June 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM   |   Comments

PITTSBURGH, June 23 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have discovered a protein found in the nucleus of cells helps regulate the body's immune system, playing a key role in many diseases.

The researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh said their discovery of the protein and its function might also provide a target for the development of new treatments for a number of conditions and diseases ranging from asthma to cancer.

The scientists, led by Dr. Yatin Vyas, said they discovered the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein, which was known to be present in the cell cytoplasm, also is present in the nucleus of cells. The researchers said their most significant finding is that the nuclear protein regulates activation of T-helper type 1 cells, a subset of lymphocytes that are crucial to the immune system.

Without enough Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein present in the nucleus, T-helper type 1 immunity is impaired, and that type of immunity is required to combat most infections and many cancers, Vyas said, adding the finding significantly expands science's understanding of the importance of the protein in the biology of the cell and its potential as a therapeutic target.

The research is reported in the online, before-print edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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