A team of researchers from ULg is studying “Natural Killer” (NK) cells. These cells, which are still relatively unknown, are lymphocytes capable of spontaneously killing certain cells that are infected by a virus as well as some cancerous and metastasizing cells. One of the challenges of modern immunotherapy will be to better understand their functioning in order to succeed in maximizing their action.
A bridge between two types of defense against attack
In the case of invasion by a pathogenic agent, the body defends itself in two ways.
So what can be said about these famous NK cells which resemble lymphocytes but which do not have the same specific recognition receptors as their well-known “cousins”? And also, what can be said about their ability to spontaneously kill cancerous cells or cells infected by a virus and, above all, how do they manage to recognize and lyse them? All these questions that remained unanswered for a long time at first led to the NK cells being given the somewhat unglamorous name of “null lymphocyte”, because they did not have any known receptor and were therefore supposed to be without any sophisticated recognition system or memory.
(1) I. Langers,V. Renoux, M. Thiry, P. Delvenne, N. Jacobs. (2012, April). Natural Killer cells - role in local tumor growth and metastasis. Biologics: Targets and Therapy.http://hdl.handle.net/2268/113249