August 30, 2012 (Bronx, NY) Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a new "first response" mechanism that the immune system uses to respond to infection. The findings challenge the current understanding of immunity and could lead to new strategies for boosting effectiveness of all vaccines. The study, conducted in mice, published online today in the journal Immunity.
Grgoire Lauvau, Ph.D.One way the immune system protects the body against microbes like bacteria and viruses is with memory CD8+ T cells, so named because they can "remember" the invading organisms. If someone is later infected by that same microbe, memory CD8+ T cells recognize the invaders and multiply rapidly, forming an army of cytotoxic T cells to hunt down and destroy the microbes and the cells they've infected. This highly specific immune response forms the basis for most vaccinesbut it can take several weeks for them to prime the immune system to respond to "real" infections.
This new study shows that the immune system has another, faster method for responding to infections that could be exploited to produce faster-acting vaccines.
"Our research has revealed that pathogen-specific memory CD8+ T cells are reactivated even before they recognize the antigen they previously encountered," said study leader Grgoire Lauvau, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Einstein. (Antigens are protein fragments of microbes that trigger an immune response.)
Dr. Lauvau and his colleagues found that this fast-acting immune response is orchestrated by a type of white cell called inflammatory monocytes. After the immune system detects an infection, it recruits monocytes to
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Albert Einstein College of Medicine