Early activation of immune response could lead to better vaccines

August 30, 2012

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered a new "first response" mechanism that the immune system uses to respond to infection. The findings challenge the current understanding of immunity and could lead to new strategies for boosting effectiveness of all vaccines. The study, conducted in mice, published online today in the journal Immunity.

Grégoire Lauvau, Ph.D.One way the protects the body against microbes like bacteria and viruses is with memory CD8+ T cells, so named because they can "remember" the invading organisms. If someone is later infected by that same microbe, memory CD8+ T cells recognize the invaders and multiply rapidly, forming an army of to hunt down and destroy the microbes and the cells they've infected. This highly forms the basis for most vaccines—but it can take several weeks for them to prime the immune system to respond to "real" infections.

This new study shows that the immune system has another, faster method for responding to infections that could be exploited to produce faster-acting vaccines.

"Our research has revealed that pathogen-specific memory CD8+ T cells are reactivated even before they recognize the antigen they previously encountered," said study leader Grégoire Lauvau, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Einstein. (Antigens are of microbes that trigger an immune response.)

Dr. Lauvau and his colleagues found that this fast-acting immune response is orchestrated by a type of white cell called inflammatory . After the immune system detects an infection, it recruits monocytes to the affected tissues, where they release inflammatory signals called cytokines. Those inflammatory signals not only activate every memory CD8+ T cell that has previously encountered a pathogen but also stimulate the activation of , another type of white blood cell.

The result is a protective immunologic environment capable of defending against of any kind—viruses, bacteria or parasites. Only later do memory CD8+ T cells specific for that microbe's antigen begin to multiply, enabling the immune system to launch its focused attack on that particular microbe.

"We're not saying that recognizing the antigen is unimportant in the immune response," says Dr. Lauvau. "You do need the antigen later on, to cause memory CD8+ T cells to multiply and to get full pathogen-specific protection. But it doesn't seem to be needed during the days immediately following re-infection, when this early form of immunity is operating."

"It's too early to apply these findings clinically," said Dr. Lauvau. "For example, we still need to identify all of the cells and signaling molecules that are involved, and learn how and when the immune system switches from the first phase of protection to the second phase, where you have the antigen. But the important concept to take from this study is that it may be possible to improve vaccines by making this early, generalized immune response persist for a longer time until the later, targeted immune response kicks in."

Explore further: Research describes advantages of new vaccine adjuvant

Related Stories

Research describes advantages of new vaccine adjuvant

December 12, 2011
New research from the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Leadbetter at the Trudeau Institute may lead to a whole new class of vaccines. Dr. Leadbetter's lab has discovered new properties of a potential vaccine adjuvant that suggest ...

Lasting T cell memories

March 5, 2012
The generation of new memories in the human immune system doesn't come at the cost of old ones, according to a study published on March 5th in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Skin sentry cells promote distinct immune responses

July 21, 2011
A new study reveals that just as different soldiers in the field have different jobs, subsets of a type of immune cell that polices the barriers of the body can promote unique and opposite immune responses against the same ...

Flu immunity is affected by how many viruses actually cause the infection

June 28, 2012
Not only does the type of flu virus affect a patient's outcome, but a new research report appearing in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that the number of viruses involved in the initial infection may be important ...

Recommended for you

Biophysics explains how immune cells kill bacteria

August 16, 2017
(Tokyo, August 16) A new data analysis technique, moving subtrajectory analysis, designed by researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, defines the dynamics and kinetics of key molecules in the immune response to an infection. ...

Genetic variants found to play key role in human immune system

August 16, 2017
It is widely recognized that people respond differently to infections. This can partially be explained by genetics, shows a new study published today in Nature Communications by an international collaboration of researchers ...

How a nutrient, glutamine, can control gene programs in cells

August 15, 2017
The 200 different types of cells in the body all start with the same DNA genome. To differentiate into families of bone cells, muscle cells, blood cells, neurons and the rest, differing gene programs have to be turned on ...

Scientists identify gene that controls immune response to chronic viral infections

August 15, 2017
For nearly 20 years, Tatyana Golovkina, PhD, a microbiologist, geneticist and immunologist at the University of Chicago, has been working on a particularly thorny problem: Why are some people and animals able to fend off ...

Clustering for health

August 15, 2017
When functioning appropriately, the immune system protects against multiple threats such as pathogens, disease-causing microbes, and tumors. However, when the immune system is inappropriately activated, it attacks the body, ...

An immune signaling pathway for control of Yellow Fever Virus infection

August 15, 2017
Princeton University researchers have uncovered a critical role for a new immune signaling pathway in controlling infection by the flavivirus Yellow Fever Virus (YFV). The paper describing this discovery appeared in the journal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.