Research could help in fight against infection and cancer

Researchers from Medicine, Chemistry and Biological Sciences in the University’s Institute for Life Science (IfLS) have been collaborating with Microsoft Research UK to investigate the function of the antigen-presenting protein MHC1. Their research, which started more than a decade ago and has been part-funded by Cancer Research UK, has explored the pliability of the protein and how its ability to shape-shift dictates its function.

Professor Tim Elliott
Professor Tim Elliott
Source: Medicine, Chemistry and Biological Sciences in the University’s Institute for Life Science (IfLS)

Principal Investigator Tim Elliott, Professor of Experimental Oncology and Deputy Director for the IfLS, said: “This protein acts as a molecular interface between your body and your immune system. It alerts your immune system to the fact that the body has been infected by a virus or invaded by cancer, and guides white blood cells to kill them. What we have discovered is that it can only perform these vital functions if it is allowed to “wriggle” in a particular way. We also discovered that, because it is a pliable molecule, different parts of the protein communicate with one another – if we touch it in one place, the function in a distant part of the molecule changes. These findings are of real interest to both immunologists who are developing new immunotherapies for diseases and biology as a whole. They have generated real interest in the healthcare industry.”

The team’s discoveries could have a major impact on the future of medical treatment and in the long term could see the development of cancer immunotherapies and vaccines against infection. It could also help to reduce allergies such as contact hypersensitivity by understanding how the additives used in healthcare products are detected by the immune system.

The results of the study have led to the award of significant industry funding from the consumer goods giant Unilever. It has awarded the team £700,000 to work in collaboration with its scientists to continue exploring ways to minimise allergic reactions, involving MHC1, to additives in healthcare products.

Professor Elliott said: “This is fantastic news. It is a strong indication of the quality of our research that consumer companies such as Unilever are interested in the fundamental science that we are exploring and can see the potential applications for industry even if they are still a long way ahead. By bringing together different disciplines under the umbrella of the IfLS we are making a step change in the way we solve biological problems.”

Source: University of Southampton


More on the subject:
Read all latest stories

Related articles


News • Precision medicine

Localising BRCA gene mutations to better treat ovarian cancer

An international team highlights the importance of localising BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations for the treatment of ovarian cancer.


News • How cancer spreads

Cancer metastasis: Breakthrough to lead to better treatments

Cambridge scientists have discovered that cancer cells ‘hijack’ a process used by healthy cells to spread around the body, completely changing current ways of thinking around cancer metastasis.


Video • Clonal somatic mutations

How does cancer grow? Genetic mapping gives new insight

Researchers from the UK and Sweden have found that individual prostate tumours contain a previously unknown range of genetic variation.

Related products

CliniSys – Genetics Laboratory

LIS / Middleware / POCT

CliniSys – Genetics Laboratory

CliniSys Deutschland GmbH
MolGen – PurePrep 96


MolGen – PurePrep 96

Sarstedt – White Multiply PCR Plates


Sarstedt – White Multiply PCR Plates

Subscribe to Newsletter