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Leprosy microbes lead scientists to immune discovery

esence of the two cell types. (One of the types, the microbe-eating macrophages, is labeled DC-SIGN+, while the other, the antigen-presenting dendritic cells, are termed CD1b+). In people who have the form of leprosy known as tuberculoid, or T-lep, the body has made a strong immune response and the infection stays localized to the skin. In patients with lepromatous leprosy, or L-lep, the bacteria have overwhelmed the immune defenses and can spread along nerves throughout the body and may cause blindness.

The scientists found DC-SIGN+ macrophages in both types of leprosy infections. The CD1b+ cells were present only in the milder form, indicating a successful battle against the leprosy bacterium. They were missing, however, in the more severe leprosy infections, meaning that the monocytes hadn't succeeded in producing those key anti-bacterial fighters.

"The logic here is that because their monocytes are unable to produce the [CD1b+] cells that can mobilize T-cells, these people don't respond well and become much sicker," commented Bloom. "This research gives us insights about how the body develops protective immunity against bugs that invade our cells--or fails to. Now we know the players, and we would love to look at them in other diseases such as tuberculosis in the lungs and juvenile diabetes."

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 300 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 900-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children's health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.


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Source:Harvard School of Public Health


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