A new study has identified extracellular magnesium as a critical immunomodulator of CD8 + T cells. The level of magnesium in the blood is an important factor in the ability of the immune system to fight pathogenic and cancer cells.

The researchers [from Basel University Hospital and the Department of Medicine at Cambridge University] reported that T cells needed enough magnesium to function effectively. Magnesium deficiency is associated with a variety of diseases, such as infections and cancer.

Previous studies have shown that cancerous growths spread faster in the body of experimental animals when they received a low magnesium diet and their defense against influenza viruses was reduced. However, so far little research has been done on how exactly this mineral affects the immune system. The researchers found that T cells can kill abnormal or infected cells effectively only in a magnesium-rich environment.

In particular, magnesium is important for the function of a protein on the surface of T cells called LFA-1 [Lymphocyte Function-Antigen 1]. , which plays a key role in T cell activation.

However, in this inactive state it cannot bind effectively to infected or abnormal cells. Magnesium plays a role here, which if present in sufficient quantities close to T cells, binds to LFA-1 by activating it. Magnesium is essential for T cell function can be an extremely important finding for modern immunotherapies aimed at mobilizing the immune system – particularly cytotoxic T cells – to fight cancer cells.

In experimental models, the researchers were able to show that the immune response of T cells to cancer cells was enhanced by an increase in the local concentration of magnesium in the tumors. Using data from previous studies of cancer patients, the researchers showed that immunotherapies were less effective in patients with insufficient levels of magnesium in their blood. Whether regular magnesium intake affects the risk of developing cancer is a question that can not be answered based on existing data [prospective studies begin].