Immunologists discover immune system precursor cells that fight infection

May 27, 2014, Universitaet Mainz
Professor Dr. Andreas Diefenbach

The innate immune system recognizes infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria. A group of lymphocytes known as "innate lymphoid cells" or ILCs plays a central role in the defense of the human body against infective agents. Professor Andreas Diefenbach of the Research Center Immunology at the Mainz University Medical Center, working in collaboration with scientists at the University of Freiburg, has discovered previously unidentified ILCs that are able to protect epithelial surfaces, such as those of the intestinal mucosa, against infection. The results provide important additional insights into how the immune system functions. It is also possible that these findings, recently published in the international journal Cell, could result in the development of new vaccination strategies that would prevent intracellular infections.

ILCs are among the most important weapons of the and help it to fight infections and prevent the development of cancer. However, ILCs are not only of critical importance when it comes to preventing infections. They also have important functions in non-immunological processes, such as organ homeostasis, i.e., the maintenance of the physiological functional status of vital organs. Professor Andreas Diefenbach, Director of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene at the Mainz University Medical Center, has now identified a previously unrecognized ILC population. Specifically, he has been able to identify previously unknown precursor cells from which all types of ILCs may originate and to describe a new ILC subgroup called type 1 ILCs.

"The fact that we have found the potential precursor cell for all ILCs has opened up completely new horizons for research in the field of immunology. We now have a realistic chance of identifying the signals controlling differentiation of such into each of the various ILC types," said Diefenbach. "If we understand how distinct types of ILCs are involved in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases and autoimmune disorders, we may be able to precisely suppress this unwanted programming of ILCs in the future." Diefenbach succeeded in detecting the unknown ILCs and the precursor cell at the molecular genetic level with the aid of fluorescent proteins.

"A healthy immune system is the key to preventing illnesses. So it is all the more important for us to obtain a comprehensive understanding of how the immune system operates. With this discovery, Professor Andreas Diefenbach and his team have made additional important progress in understanding the in all its facets," stated the Chief Scientific Officer of the Mainz University Medical Center, Professor Ulrich Förstermann.

Explore further: Researchers find source of new lineage of immune cells

More information: Klose, Christoph S. N. et al., "Differentiation of Type 1 ILCs from a Common Progenitor to All Helper-like Innate Lymphoid Cell Lineages," Cell 157, 340-356, 10 April 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.03.030

Related Stories

Researchers find source of new lineage of immune cells

February 12, 2014
The elusive progenitor cells that give rise to innate lymphoid cells—a recently discovered group of infection-fighting white blood cells—have been identified in fetal liver and adult bone marrow of mice, researchers from ...

Gene discovery reveals importance of eating your greens

March 4, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Eating your greens may be even more important that previously thought, with the discovery that an immune cell population essential for intestinal health could be controlled by leafy greens in your diet.

Newly described type of immune cell and T cells share similar path to maturity, according to new study

May 14, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Labs around the world, and a core group at Penn, have been studying recently described populations of immune cells called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). Some researchers liken them to foot soldiers that ...

Research shows how immune system peacefully co-exists with 'good' bacteria

May 22, 2013
The human gut is loaded with commensal bacteria – "good" microbes that, among other functions, help the body digest food. The gastrointestinal tract contains literally trillions of such cells, and yet the immune system ...

Itching for new help for eczema: Recently identified immune cells possible therapeutic target

January 30, 2013
Researchers have identified a previously unknown critical role for a recently identified immune cell population in the progression of atopic dermatitis. The team found an accumulation of innate lymphoid cells in the active ...

Scientists uncover protective influence of Vitamin A against inflammatory bowel disease

June 5, 2013
Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made novel discoveries around the protective influence of Vitamin A against the damaging immune responses that lead to inflammatory bowel disease. The research led by Professor of ...

Recommended for you

Improving vaccines for the elderly by blocking inflammation

January 22, 2018
By identifying why skin immunity declines in old age, a UCL-led research team has found that an anti-inflammatory pill could help make vaccines more effective for elderly people.

Novel genomic tools provide new insight into human immune system

January 19, 2018
When the body is under attack from pathogens, the immune system marshals a diverse collection of immune cells to work together in a tightly orchestrated process and defend the host against the intruders. For many decades, ...

First vaccine developed against grass pollen allergy

January 18, 2018
Around 400 million people worldwide suffer in some form or other from a grass pollen allergy (rhinitis), with the usual symptoms of runny nose, cough and severe breathing problems. In collaboration with the Viennese firm ...

Genomics reveals key macrophages' involvement in systemic sclerosis

January 18, 2018
A new international study has made an important discovery about the key role of macrophages, a type of immune cell, in systemic sclerosis (SSc), a chronic autoimmune disease which currently has no cure.

Researchers discover key driver of atopic dermatitis

January 17, 2018
Severe eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is driven by an allergic reaction. In their latest study, researchers at La Jolla Institute reveal an important player that promotes ...

Who might benefit from immunotherapy? New study suggests possible marker

January 16, 2018
While immunotherapy has made a big impact on cancer treatment, the fact remains that only about a quarter of patients respond to these treatments.

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.