Study Reveals Previously Unknown Function of T Cells

Christina Zielinski, MD

Certain T cells can secrete cytokines that are normally part of the innate immune system, as researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology-Hans Knoell Institute (Leibniz-HKI) and an international research team discovered. The scientists have thus revealed several previously unknown properties of these immune cells that are relevant regarding both autoimmune diseases as well as fighting fungal infections. The study was published on January 5, 2023 in Nature Immunology. The open-access article is titled “Human Th17 Cells Engage Gasdermin E Pores to Release IL-1α Upon NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation.” T cells belong to the adaptive immune system, which recognizes foreign antigens and specifically fights pathogens. Different T cells perform different functions in this process. So-called T helper cells secrete cytokines that attract other immune cells to the site of infection and trigger inflammation there. However, T helper cells can also counteract inflammation. Better understanding these mechanisms helps in the development of therapeutics against pathogens or autoimmune diseases.

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