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Scripps Research scientists redefine the role of plasma cells in the immune system
Date:11/30/2010

La Jolla, CA November 29, 2010 - For Immediate Release A team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have uncovered a previously unknown regulatory mechanism in the body's response to eliminate pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. The findings challenge a long-held dogma in the field of immunology and have potential implications for far-ranging topics from how vaccines should be administered to the origin of autoimmunity.

The results of the study, led by Scripps Research Professor Michael McHeyzer-Williams, were published in the December issue of the journal Nature Immunology (Volume 11, Number 12).

The new study focuses on plasma cells, which are a component of the immune system known for producing large quantities of antibodies targeted disease-fighting proteins. The new study, however, shows plasma cells also act in a negative feedback loop, the end result of which affects the function of other higher-ranking immune cells called follicular helper T cells (TFH).

"These plasma cells are not only capable of secreting highly specialized antibodies, but they are also involved in the regulation of the process that generates the mature immune response," said Nadge Pelletier, a research associate in the McHeyzer-Williams lab and first author of the new paper.

Previous to this work, scientists thought of plasma cells as simple soldiers in the fight against the body's foreign invaders and lacking in the ability to direct the course of future battles.

Protecting Our Body from Foreign Invaders

The immune system is our body's military, and like a real military it detects and eliminates invaders, pathogens such as bacteria or viruses that are responsible for illness. The immune system must also recognize the body's own "self" cells (civilians) so they are not mistaken for invaders. The immune system has an innate (non-specific) component and an adaptive (specific) component. The adapti
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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