Natural killer cell lineage commitment

Natural killer (NK) cells are white blood cells that fight infection by killing a variety of virus-infected cells and tumours. NK cells can distinguish normal, healthy cells from unhealthy cells and kill only the latter. It’s also believed that NK cells help eliminate residual tumour cells following bone marrow transplant into leukemia patients. While the function of NK cells has been well-researched, less is known about how these cells develop. All blood cells arise from hematopoietic stem cells through a process called lineage commitment, in which stem cells differentiate into various types of cells. Linnea Veinotte aims to define that process for NK cells. In previous research funded by MSFHR, Linnea discovered that some NK cells express a gene specific to T cells: the T cell receptor gamma gene. Linnea is investigating T cell receptor gamma gene expression in NK cells and how it may help define the developmental pathway of NK cells. The findings could provide insights about how NK cells develop — crucial information given the important role of NK cells in the body’s immune response.