Interleukin (IL)-7 induced signals essential in T cell development and transformation

The molecule interleukin-7 (IL-7) is an important regulator of the development and signalling function of T cells, the white blood cells involved in fighting off infection and coordinating an efficient immune response. After T cells mature, they circulate through the blood, searching out invading pathogens, mounting an immune response and clearing the infection. This process generates specialized memory T cells, which are able to mount a stronger and more efficient immune response upon subsequent encounters with the same pathogen. Growing evidence indicates that not only is IL-7 essential in the development of these memory T cells, but that its overproduction is also implicated in a number of immune system cancers. Using a number of genetic models of IL-7 signalling, Lisa Osborne’s research will clarify the IL-7 mediated biochemical pathways necessary to ensure proper development and maturation of the T cell compartment, that are involved in the viability of mature T cells and the generation of memory T cells. She aims to demonstrate which molecule or pathway is primarily involved in the de-regulated growth of T cells that leads to cancer. Ultimately, this research could guide the development of vaccines that rely on the generation of memory T cells against a particular pathogen. Lisa’s work will also provide insights into the development of immune system cancers, and potentially a novel treatment approach.