Magnesium deficiency is associated with a variety of diseases, such as infections and cancer. Moreover, a low-magnesium diet is found to promote faster cancerous growths in mice as per previous studies.
The study found that magnesium is specifically important for the function of a T cell surface protein called LFA-1 that plays a key role in the activation of T cells by acting as a docking site.
“However, in the inactive state this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells,” Christoph Hess explains. “This is where magnesium comes into play. If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended – and therefore active – position,” says Professor Christoph Hess from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel and the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge, who led the study.
The study further plans to explore the clinical effect of magnesium as a catalyst for the immune system.