PHILADELPHIA (September 1, 2011) Our immune system is capable of a remarkable feat: the ability to remember infections for years, even decades, after they have first been encountered and defeated. While the antibodies we make last only about a month, we retain the means of making them for a lifetime. Until now, the exact mechanism behind this was poorly understood, but researchers at The Wistar Institute have discovered some of the protein signals responsible for keeping the memory of distant viral infections alive within our bodies.
Their study, presented in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, may aid scientists in creating better, more effective vaccines.
"We are particularly interested in how our bodies generate antibodies against viruses and how we maintain anti-viral antibody secreting cells as a hedge against future infection from the same virus," said Jan Erikson, Ph.D., senior author of the study, professor in Wistar's Immunology Program and a member of The Wistar Institute Vaccine Center. "Our study highlights how protein signals sustain the cells that make antibodies against viruses in perpetuity, which we believe is crucial knowledge for the development of vaccines for lasting protection against the flu, for example."
Despite an annual vaccine against the disease, seasonal influenza remains a potent killer, one associated with nearly half a million deaths each year around the globe. The persistence of antibody memory is why older people, who typically suffer more from influenza, fared much better than expected during the 2009 avian influenza pandemic. Previous exposure toor vaccination againsta similar strain provided many older Americans a resistance to the 2009 avian flu. Wistar Vaccine Center researchers are among a number of teams of scientists working toward a universal flu vaccine, one that would forgo the need for an annual flu shot.
The main role of vaccines is to stimulate the production of
|Contact: Greg Lester|
The Wistar Institute