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Sizing up our tonsillar allies

Feb 15, 2016

A study led by Ludwig Cancer Research scientist Rickard Sandberg and Jenny Mjösberg of the Karolinska Institutet has characterized a relatively recently-discovered type of human immune cell known as the innate lymphoid cell (ILC). The researchers describe in the current issue of Nature Immunology how they measured global gene expression in individual tonsil cells to identify different sub-types of these immune cells. Previous studies, done primarily in animals, suggest that ILCs are important to maintaining the barrier function of mucosa—the soft lining of inner body cavities—which serve as a first line of defense against microorganisms. A growing body of evidence indicates that ILCs are involved in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and intestinal cancer.

“We used cluster analyses to demonstrate that ILCs congregate into ILC1, ILC2, ILC3 and NK cells based on their unique gene expression profiles,” says Sandberg, an assistant member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Stockholm. “Our analyses also discovered the expression of numerous genes of previously unknown function in ILCs, highlighting that these cells are likely doing more than what we previously knew.” 

Sandberg is also a professor in molecular genetics at the Karolinska Institutet.

A more detailed release is available here.