Cytotoxic T cells are the soldiers of the immune response, killing infected cells to protect us against infection. They are also one of the main destroyers of tumor cells in the immune cells’ fight against cancer, but become dysfunctional once a tumor takes hold. This dysfunctionality is termed “T cell exhaustion”.
Recently, our lab has found this T cell exhaustion also results in metabolic exhaustion: cytotoxic T cells in the tumor lose mitochondrial mass and function. Our lab is now exploring how this loss in mitochondria impacts the functionality of T cells.