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Mount Sinai researchers discover new target for vaccine development in abundant immune cells
Date:7/24/2012

White blood cells called neutrophils, which are the first line of defense against infection, play an unexpected role by boosting antibody production, according to research led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The findings suggest neutrophils have multiple roles within the immune system and function at levels previously unknown to the scientific community. The research, published in Nature Immunology, provides groundbreaking insight into possible new approaches in vaccine development for blood-borne infections and HIV.

Neutrophils are part of the so-called innate immune systemthe immune system encoded at birth that remains unchangedand are at the front lines defending against infection and inflammation. The research was led by Andrea Cerutti, MD, Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and included an international team of investigators that also involved Irene Puga, PhD, of IMIM-Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, and Montserrat Cols, PhD, of Mount Sinai.

Researchers evaluated healthy human tissues key to the immune system to assess the abundance of neutrophils in the lymph nodes, tonsils, lymphoid tissue in the intestine, and the spleen. They found very few neutrophils in all areas but onethe region of the spleen called the marginal zone. The spleen is an organ whose primary role is as a filtration system for agents that cause infection and inflammation in the body. Looking more closely at these cells, they found that their role spanned beyond the innate immune system.

According to the study, neutrophils in the marginal zone express two molecules called BAFF and APRIL, which then activate immune cells called B-cells in the adaptive immune system, which is more sophisticated and dynamic than the innate immune system. Neutrophils signal BAFF and APRIL to reprogram B-cells to create different classes of antibodies, allowing the immune system to mount a more potent antibody response.

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