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How do T cells control Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpes virus infection in cells?

  • Researcher: Dr Andrew Hislop
  • Institution: University of Birmingham
  • Award Amount: £125,278 for 3 years from May 2013
  • Cancer Type: Kaposi's Sarcoma
How do T cells control Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpes virus infection in cells?

Several viruses are known to cause cancers. One such virus is Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV). KSHV is the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), which is a type of cancer that is often associated with skin lesions, as well as two other cancerous diseases. KS is often associated with AIDS, and with the high prevalence of AIDS in Africa, it is now one of the most commonly reported adult tumours in sub-Saharan Africa. Research so far has found that T cells, a type of immune cell, are most likely involved in controlling infection and damage caused by the virus. When KSHV causes KS, and other diseases, the virus produces a group of proteins, and these proteins are how the T cells detect the virus as a foreign body. Dr Hislop and his team have identified specific T cells, which recognise these virus proteins, and they have been able to isolate these T cells to study how they attack KHSV. Some of these virus proteins use methods that may prevent them from being recognised by the T cells. They will now test how T cells interact with these proteins to, firstly, better understand how the proteins prevent being detected by T cells, and secondly they will explore ways of restoring T cell recognition of these proteins. Thirdly they will study whether different types of T cells are better at recognising cells infected with the virus. In earlier research, they found that the T cells were able to recognise some types of cells that were infected with KHSV, but that the T cells were unable to kill these cells. Based on these findings, they will now study whether a virus protein is involved in stopping the T cells from killing KSHV-infected cells, and how they can prevent this from happening.

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