Study: Sugar good for immune system

New research from NUI Galway has shown the importance of sugar in the healthy functioning of our immune system.

The research will help with the development of new treatment strategies for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and the rejection of transplants.

The NUIG findings started out by looking at how sugar molecules regulated immune responses in the body.

The researchers of the work specifically examined how sugar, or carbohydrate molecules, attaching to the surfaces of immune cells protected those cells.

The researchers came from NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and the Advanced Glycoscience Research Cluster (AGRC).

Together they have published two new studies in the journal Frontiers of Immunology.

Both studies demonstrate how chains of sugar molecules attached to proteins and other parts of the cell surface play an essential role in the function of our immune system.

Commenting on the publication of the studies, Professor Thomas Ritter at NUI Galway, said the research could help in the treatment of cancer.

“These results could have important implications for both the field of immunotherapies and cancer treatment.

“The importance of sugar residues in controlling how immune responses occur is under-studied and warrants further investigations,” Prof Ritter said.

Professor Lokesh Joshi, vice president for research at NUI Galway, said the work provides “new avenues for potentially enhancing or regulating elements of immune function.”

“Internationally-recognised expert in blood cancers Professor Michael O’Dwyer, who is consultant haematologist at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospital, said he was “very excited” by the results of the research.

Prof O’Dwyer said the research shows that “the manipulation of sugar residues on stem cells helps to restore anti-cancer immune response”.

The findings will be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American Haematology Society.

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