PhD student in Physiology
Award-winning publication: The Energy Sensor AMPK Regulates T Cell Metabolic Adaptation and Effector Responses In Vivo
Published in: Immunity
"We helped advance the knowledge in the emerging field of immunometabolism by demonstrating that, just like glucose, glutamine constitutes a significant source in the physiology of T cells—white blood cells that destroy foreign cells in the body. We revealed that lymphocyte functioning depends on the nutrient medium. For example, in low-glucose media, glutamine may be redirected through metabolic pathways that compensate for the lack of glucose. These glutamine pathways were not observed in glucose-rich environments. In addition, we were the first to show that adaptation depends on the activity of AMPK, an enzyme involved in cellular energy homeostasis."
By proving that AMPK fosters the development of cellular immunity against viral and bacterial intracellular pathogens, Julianna Blagih and her team have contributed to therapeutic advancements in the field, since AMPK activators could be applied to increase immune responses to infections. The research could also lead to AMPK inhibiting applications since animals without AMPK cannot develop colitis. In addition, the discovery may help patients suffering from autoimmune diseases by slowing the activity of their T cells. The study has established the foundations to explore new therapies to treat chronic illnesses, which are prevalent in our society.