Acetylcholine (ACh) is a well-known neurotransmitter that plays important roles in nervous system as well as the immune system. It’s necessary for the killing of virus-infected cells by virus-targeting T cells, and Dr. Liu and his colleagues hypothesize that the same may be true for tumor-targeting T cells. One way ACh exerts its activity is through binding receptors called nAChRs. Mutations in one nAChR-encoding gene are associated with the development of breast and lung cancers in humans, but the mechanism remains a mystery.
Dr. Liu’s earlier findings suggest that the cancer-related nAChR is required for the proper function of cancer-killing T cells, and now he’s examining the role that the receptor plays in the development of these T cells. His work should reveal how changes in the receptor-encoding genes lead to defects in the generation of effective T cells as well as point out novel cancer immunotherapy approaches.
Projects and Grants
Cholinergic Regulation of Thymocyte Development and Tumorigenesis
University Health Network (Canada) | All Cancers, Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer | 2021 | Tak Mak, Ph.D.
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