A new study has once again highlighted the importance of vitamin C for the proper functioning of the immune system. This vitamin is found mainly in foods such as citrus fruits and vegetables.
In this sense, regulatory T cells (Treg) help regulate inflammation and autoimmunity in the organism. However, new research has found that vitamin C and TET proteins can work together to give Tregs the ability to save lives.
These Tregs are absolutely key to the functioning of the immune system and therefore to life. So much so that the scientific community is working to make ‘Tregs’ in vitro for use against disease, as well as organ transplant rejection.
Vitamin C can save lives
The study in question was led by the La Jolla Institute of Immunology and the Emory University School of Medicine (USA). The conclusion of the study is that vitamin C and TET proteins can work together to give Tregs more power and save the lives of many people.
One of the main authors of this research is Dr Xiaojing Yue. She says: «Vitamin C can be used to stabilise iTregs generated in vitro. We hope that this type of induced Tregs can be used in the future for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and organ transplantation.
Thus, this research work built on the foundation and previous discovery of vitamin C, which offered enhancement of the enzymatic activity of TET proteins. The initial goal was to promote the production of stable iTregs under laboratory conditions.
Dr Yue says, «We wanted to study the whole system at the whole genome level using next-generation sequencing technology to better understand the molecular characteristics of these cells.
TET protein interaction analysis
During the research, the researchers found that TET proteins are absolutely necessary to maintain the gene expression and epigenetic characteristics that make Tregs what they are.
Thus, the addition of vitamin C led to the appearance of iTregs with expression and epigenetic characteristics very similar to the normal «wild-type» Tregs we normally find in the organism.
In addition, the study also uncovered an intriguing connection between vitamin C, TET proteins and IL-2/STAT5 signalling.
In mice deficient in components of IL-2/STAT5 signalling, such as IL-2, IL-2 receptors or STAT5, Tregs may not develop properly or may have impaired function,» says Dr Yue.
Dr XIaojing Yue concludes: «We are looking for more small molecules to stabilise TET activity and generate induced Tregs that are even more stable. These induced Tregs could then be used to treat patients.
Finally, co-author Daniela Samaniego-Castruita says, «This study gives us a new way of thinking about the treatment of autoimmune diseases. The interaction between vitamin C and the enzymatic activity of TETs could be key to saving lives.