Boston, Mass. A new understanding of a certain cell in the immune system may help guide scientists in creating better flu vaccines, report researchers from the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine and the Immune Disease Institute at Children's Hospital Boston (PCMM/IDI). Reporting online March 21 in Nature Immunology, they show, for the first time, that white blood cells known as resident dendritic cells (DCs) capture flu viruses and show them to B-lymphocytes, another white blood cell that recognizes germs and launches an antibody attack. Harnessing this previously unknown function could help activate the immune system more effectively against the flu virus.
"The government is putting a lot of money into vaccine development," says senior investigator Michael Carroll, PhD, director of the immunology graduate program at PCMM/IDI. "A lot of people are thinking about how to target vaccines, and this kind of information will tell us what cell type we would want to target."
Carroll's lab, in collaboration with Shannon Turley of the Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, closely examined what happens when a flu vaccine is injected into mice, a good model for human vaccination. They focused specifically on what happens in the lymph node, where germs and vaccine antigens are filtered.
"We're trying to break down this black box that we know as the lymph node, and identify the different cells that are there, how they interact with each other and what the general rules are," Carroll says. "Then, you can begin to manipulate it to improve vaccines and immune responses."
When it comes to building permanent immunity, B-lymphocytes are the key players because they can remember specific germs and mount a rapid antibody attack. One way B-lymphocytes first encounter germs in the lymph nodes is through the help of macrophages, white blood cells t
|Contact: Erin McColgan|
Children's Hospital Boston