A new study from the scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) describes for the first time how natural killer (NK) cells, which are able to kill and contain viruses and cancerous tumors in the human body, can be manipulated by epigenetics.
Through a series of experiments in mice, these scientists found that MYSM1, an enzyme in the body’s immune system that turns genes on and off by modifying proteins called histones embedded in DNA, is required for natural killer cells to mature and function properly. To date, there are no elaborate reports linking an epigenetic phenomenon to natural killer cell development. More importantly, unlike conventional therapies, NK cell-based therapies have shown to be more effective against metastasis. The scientists believe cancer drugs targeting this pathway could be a viable option for future immunotherapies.
Source: For more details about these findings, please view Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition (Nandakumar, V., Chou, Y.C., Zang, L., Huang, X.F., & Chen, S.Y. (2013). Epigenetic control of NK cell maturation by histone H2A deubiquitinase MYSM1.