SAN DIEGO (October 2, 2011) Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology have identified a previously unknown mechanism that generates protective immune memory cells to fight recurring infections at the body's mucosal linings which include the mouth, the intestines, the lungs and other areas. These are the main entry points for many viruses and other infectious organisms. The findings were published online today in the journal Nature Immunology and open the door to the creation of new and more effective vaccines based on triggering the newly identified mechanism.
The team, led by Hilde Cheroutre, Ph.D., conducted their experiments in mouse models using Listeria, the same bacterial agent now suspected in the death of at least 15 U.S. residents, due to exposure to potentially contaminated cantaloupe.
"It is coincidental that our findings are being published at the same time as this tragic outbreak," said Dr. Cheroutre. "Nonetheless, it points out the need to create a vaccine against Listeria and other pathogens that enter the body through mucosal linings, primarily via the oral route," she said. "We are hopeful that our findings will open the door to creating strategies to bring stronger immune memory (cells) to the mucosal borders."
Memory cells are important since they can persist for the life of the individual and will act rapidly upon encountering the same infection later in life to provide immediate protection. The generation of pre-existing immune memory is the basis for successful vaccination, which works by administering non-dangerous, pathogen-like antigens, which trigger the body to develop immune memory cells that will fight the virus or bacteria if seen again.
Specifically, the researchers discovered that the body has a distinct process for establishing strong immunity at the mucosal borders. They also identified a molecule for showing that mucosal protec
|Contact: Bonnie Ward|
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology