T cells need magnesium to fight cancer cells
Previous studies have already discovered a link between magnesium deficiency and an increased risk of infection and cancer. A research team has now discovered the reason for this association. Apparently, T cells of the immune system can only effectively eliminate cancer cells and pathogens in a magnesium-rich environment.
In a recent study, researchers from the University of Basel and the University of Cambridge demonstrated how important magnesium is to our immune system so that T cells can effectively fight off pathogens and cancer cells. The results were recently published in the famous journal “cell“It may be especially important for cancer patients.
In the case of magnesium deficiency, the immune system decreases
According to the research team, previous studies showed that cancerous growths spread more quickly in the body of mice if the animals had an insufficient amount of dietary magnesium. At the same time, the immune system against influenza viruses decreased. However, the mechanism underlying this relationship was not previously clear.
Magnesium activates protein on the surface of T cells
The working group of the current study was able to explain the reason for this association. Accordingly, a central role is played by a T-cell surface protein called LFA-1. Magnesium binds to this protein, thus activating T cells, which then begin to fight cancer cells and pathogens in the area.
T cells are at rest
According to the research team, if the LFA-1 protein is not activated, the T cells fall into a somewhat dormant state. “At resting state, however, this docking point is somewhat closed and therefore cannot efficiently bind infected or degenerated cells,” confirms research leader Professor D. Christopher Hess. However, if there is enough magnesium near the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that the protein remains in the open position and thus can be active, explains the professor.
Magnesium is essential for T cells
The study’s most important finding is that magnesium is essential for T-cell function. This could have far-reaching implications for various treatments, particularly cancer immunotherapies. Because immunotherapies aim to support your immune system so that the body is able to mobilize immune cells — especially T cells — to fight cancer cells.
The researchers have already performed preliminary tests on a model that confirmed that increased local magnesium concentration in tumors enhanced the T-cell immune response against cancerous cells. “In order to be able to test this observation clinically, we are now looking at ways to specifically increase the concentration of magnesium in tumors,” Hess explains.
Immunotherapy is less effective in magnesium deficiency
The working group also examined data from previous studies of immunotherapies against cancer. This hypothesis confirmed that immunotherapies were generally less effective in patients with low serum magnesium levels.
Can magnesium prevent cancer?
However, it remains unclear at present whether regular intake of magnesium, for example via dietary supplements, reduces the overall risk of cancer and inflammation. According to the research team, this cannot be inferred from the data. The study’s lead author, Dr. Jonas Lutcher. (FP)
Author and source information
This text complies with specifications in the specialized medical literature, clinical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by medical professionals.
Diploma Editor (FH) Volker Plasik
- University of Basel: Magnesium is essential for the immune system and also in the fight against cancer (published date: 01/19/2022), unibas.ch
- Jonas Lötscher, Adrià-Arnau Martí i Líndez, Nicole Kirchhammer, et al.: Magnesium sensing via LFA-1 regulates CD8+ T cell effector function; In: Cell, 2022., cell.com
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.