London: In a significant revelation that may help scientists create better drugs, a team of British researchers have found how different types of immune cells communicate with each other and how they kill cancerous or infected cells.
This research leads to new ideas for making drugs that switch off immune activity in auto-immune diseases like diabetes or increasing immune reactivity to cancer.
They took molecules of different sizes and colours and used microscopic imaging to see which size of molecule could get into the gap between an immune cell and another cell.
Only the smaller molecules could penetrate the gap, found the team.
"We found that immune cells secrete molecules to other cells across a very small gap. But some types of drugs are not able to penetrate the gap between the cells. So they can not easily reach targets within the gap, to work effectively," said Daniel Davis, professor at the University of Manchester in Britain.
"Our research demonstrates that any drugs targeting immune cells need to be very small. Antibody proteins, for example, are too big and are not able to get into the gap between the cells," explained Davis.
"A lot of important targets for future medicines are in the very small gap between cells. This research demonstrates why in certain cases we may need drug molecules to be smaller to work effectively," pointed out Simon Chell from GSK's Biopharm R&D team that has collaborated with the Manchester team.
"The practical application of this basic research comes from bouncing around our ideas with scientists working on drug design. The interaction between academia and pharma is hugely beneficial and we hope it will lead to more effective drug treatments," concluded Davis.
Their research was published in the journal Nature Communications.