Taming The Harmful T Cells

We all know the danger of having high cholesterol levels, but there is another danger lurking. Out of every four Americans, one will die from the buildup’s consequences of cholesterol and fat in their arteries. According to researchers’ findings at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, LJI, some T lymphocytes are part of the white blood cell family. The T cells start out working as though they are fighting the disease to worsen the situation. Professor Klaus Ley, MD, says that the immune response is anti-inflammatory, but the entire anti-flammatory process turns against you when the disease starts.

Building on other discoveries

Ley’s lab studies these T Cells or immune cells as they are better known. The lab has discovered that every person produces T cells that recognize Apob, the protein at the core of LDL cholesterol. LDL is bad cholesterol, but it plays the role of moving fat molecules to where they are needed in the body. This function makes it dangerous because if too much of it sticks on your arteries, it causes plaques.

Ley and his workmates hope to do soon to be able to tap the power in the T cells. This, they will be able to develop a vaccine that targets the LDL and inhibits plaques’ formation. Has any advancement been made so far? Yes, a study conducted in 2018 showed the atherosclerosis vaccine’s ability to lower plaque levels in mice. This could mean great news for humans. The human vaccine will only be designed after a clear and deeper understanding of T cells function and plaque formation.

A working progress

It is due to this progress that Ley worked with LJI Professor Alessandro Sette, Dr. Biol. Sci., to be able to find T cell targets present in the Apob protein. They built molecules that could trace a small population on the T cells, helping identify the T cell targets. Through this method, Ley’s team was able to identify specific T cells that could aid in reducing inflammation in the body. The only wall being faced is how the T cells turn against the body all over sudden.

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