New York, April 1, 1998 -- Ever since vitamin C was found to prevent scurvy -- a disease that has killed millions of people throughout history -- scientists have known that the vitamin plays an essential role in the body's defense against disease. Immune cells, for example, are known to accumulate and retain high levels of vitamin C, but just how this process occurs, has largely remained a mystery.
Now, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have found that the same class of proteins -- called growth factors -- which are known to control growth and production of immune cells also increase their ability to take up vitamin C. The findings, which are reported in the April issue of the journal Blood, shed new light on the connection between vitamin C and the immune system, showing how growth factors can increase the amount of vitamin C in immune cells.
"We now know that the growth factors that boost immunity also increase the amount of vitamin C in the immune cells," said Dr. David Golde, Physician-in-Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and senior author of the study.
The researchers studied vitamin C in immune cells to determine whether growth factors played a role in regulating this process. Previous research had shown that growth factors caused immune cells to take up more glucose -- a process that increases the metabolic fuel available for cellular function. One of those growth factors, called granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, or GM-CSF was purified in Dr. Golde's laboratory in 1984 and is being used in the treatment of cancer patients to help boost their immune systems following bone marrow transplantation.
Building on this discovery, Dr. Golde identified a portion of the GM-CSF
receptor on the cell's surface that stimulates the immune cell to take
in glucose. This discovery just happened to coincide with earlier research
in his laboratory led b
Contact: Kelli Stauning
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center