Pioneering research into the mechanism of immune response has made a discovery that may change the way experts view and study immunology. The findings, documented by researchers at the University of California, Davis, determined that early introduction of inflammatory cytokines results in paralysis of CD4 T cells – the immune cells that are responsible for the body’s reaction to foreign invaders.

This breakthrough may lead to more effective immunotherapy treatment for cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and HIV, and may help to improve the ability of transplant patients to tolerate new organs — and support recovery of sepsis.

According to research author Gail Sckisel, “There’s a three-signal process to activate T cells of which each component is essential for proper activation – but no one has really looked at what happens if they are delivered out of sequence. We found that, if the third signal – cytokines – is given prematurely, it basically paralyzes CD4 T cells.”

When T cells perceive an antigen, the body sends defense signals that cause inflammatory cytokines to develop into an immune response. Three signals and the timing of their release are key factors in manipulating the way the body responds to invaders. Current immunotherapies activate the immune system, but this historic discovery will likely change this approach, explains Sckisel, “Considering how T cells respond, that approach could damage a patient’s ability to fight off pathogens. While immunotherapies might fight cancer, they may open the door to opportunistic infections.”

The study’s lead author, William Murphy, expressed concern – stating the need to be cautious with the approach because of complication presented in some patients whose immune system was completely shut down through immune suppression therapy.

Derrick Callahan, representative for Fenvir, responded to the discovery, “There would be no defense against viruses, germs, and infections without the body’s natural army of defensive cells. Providing the immune system with the building blocks needed for proper function can help enable it to maintain the body’s natural balance — as it was designed to do. When the immune response is out of balance, it isn’t able to fight off illness and infection or becomes hyper-responsive — resulting in inflammatory disorders.”