s when the immune system identifies infected cells and brings pieces of them into the lymph node for targeting. Within a few days of infection, the immune system completes a massive scan of the 100 million available T-cells in its arsenal. Through a complex trial-and-error process, it identifies three to five T-cells that best recognize and attack the components of the sickened cells. Once the cells are selected, they are produced by the millions and sent out to clear the infection. After the infection is gone, thousands of these pre-programmed T-cells remain in the body, lying in wait should the disease return.
In recent years, public health officials have documented the disturbing co-existence of two or more Dengue viruses in Brazil, Cuba, Thailand, and other tropical and subtropical countries. Because sequential infection by multiple Dengue viruses can lead to increased likelihood of deadly infections, public health officials have attempted to counter the threat of co-existent versions of Dengue by developing a vaccine against all four versions simultaneously. Doctors found that patients who got a four-component vaccine wound up only being protected against one or two versions at most, due to immunodominance.
Intrigued by these results, Deem and graduate student Hao Zhou developed a precise computer model of the immune system's biochemical scanning process to see if they could recreate the effect and find out what caused it. Their program conducts statistical calculations about the likelihood of specific interactions at the atomic level. They conducted trillions of calculations and gradually built up a bigger picture of what occurs in Dengue immunodominance.
"When faced with more than one version of the virus, the immune system may respond preferentially against the version for which it has T-cells with the strongest affinity, which is immunodominance," Deem said.
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