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The Gene That Holds The Key to Human Immunity is Discovered

The C6orf106, or "C6" gene. Picture: CSIRO/AAP. 

The 'C6' gene, which has existed in the human body for more than 500 million years, holds the key to human immunity.

The gene, called C6, plays a critical role in regulating the body’s immune response to infection and disease and it could help scientists develop more targeted therapies for a variety of diseases.

A team at the CSIRO has found the gene regulates the production of proteins called cytokines to stop our immune system from spiraling out of control - cytokines work to prevent diseases by stopping viruses from replicating. Although C6 has existed for 500 million years, its importance has only been understood through new research.

"Our immune system produces proteins called cytokines that help fortify the immune system and work to prevent viruses and other pathogens from replicating and causing disease," said researcher Cameron Stewart.

"C6 regulates this process by switching off the production of certain cytokines to stop our immune response from spiraling out of control," she added.

The cytokines, regulated by C6, are implicated in a variety of diseases including cancer, diabetes and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The discovery helps to improve the understanding of our immune system, and it is hoped that this understanding will enable scientists to develop new, more targeted therapies.

"Even though the human genome was first fully sequenced in 2003, there are still thousands of genes that we know very little about," said another researcher Rebecca Ambrose.

Having discovered the function of C6, the researchers are given the privilege of naming it. The current name, C6orf106, reflects the gene's location within the human genome, rather than relating to any particular function. The study appears in Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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