Discovery of Sugar “Warehouse” in Dendritic Cells Could Lead to Improvement of Vaccines and New Approaches to Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases

A surprising discovery that immune cells possess an internal warehouse of glycogen used to activate immune responses could help to increase immune activity in vaccines or suppress immune reactions in autoimmune disease or hyper-inflammatory conditions. Results of the new study were published online in Cell Metabolism and show that the immune responses of dendritic cells are fueled by an intracellular storage of sugar as opposed to external sugar, where prior research has focused. The novel finding adds an important missing piece to the puzzle of how early immune responses are powered from a metabolic standpoint, and provides immunologists with a new area of focus in their ongoing effort to regulate immune activity. "By either enhancing or depleting this sugar warehouse within the cell, the hope would be that we could either influence or dampen immune reactions," says study author Dr. Eyal Amiel, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont in the Department of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Science in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. "What we're really in the business of is finding new switches to toggle to that effect and this finding provides us with a new regulatory target that regulates immune activity." The finding gives immunologists a key piece of new information to better understand how the early part of the bioenergetics of a dendritic cell immune response is generated.
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