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Immunologists identify biochemical signals that help immune cells remember how to fight infection
Date:5/27/2009

amos, student research assistant in immunology and the study's lead author. "It turns out that the IL-12 signal is really important in driving that immediate, or effector, immune response while interferon drives the development of long-term memory."

Past UT Southwestern studies have shown that the two cytokines work together in CD4+ T-cells to generate memory cells; the new research suggests that these molecules perform distinct roles in another type of immune cell called CD8+ T lymphocytes.

For these cells, whether they become killers or long-term memory cells depends upon which cytokine they respond to. Those that receive the IL-12 become killers while those that receive interferon alpha turn into long-term memory cells.

"Regardless of the precise mechanism, what we know now is that you can develop both long-term and immediate memory cells at the same time," Dr. Farrar said.

The next step, he said, is to identify pools of memory cells that "remember" specific pathogens in humans.

"There are some vaccines that are extremely effective, while others are only moderately effective," Dr. Farrar said. "If we can isolate pools of antigen-specific memory cells, we should be able to determine what it is about those pools of memory cells that is different between an extremely effective vaccine and one that's not so effective.

"If we can figure that out, then we can start to think about altering our approach to vaccinating based on the different type of microorganism that we're trying to vaccinate against," he said.


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Contact: Kristen Holland Shear
kristen.hollandshear@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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