Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Surprising epigenetic switch for ‘natural killer’ cells eyed for cancer therapy

Natural killer cells are the instant assassins of the immune system with the ability to destroy foreign invaders and cancer cells at first sight. Although scientists have been studying how to harness the lethal abilities of these cells for more than three decades, little has been known about how these ‘NK’ cells develop from unspecialized immune cells. Now, researchers have discovered an enzyme that uses an epigenetic pathway—a process that modifies the way a cell’s DNA is read without actually changing the genetic blueprint itself—to boost the growth and function of NK cells. 

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