Friday, February 6, 2015

The language of T lymphocytes deciphered, the 'Rosetta Stone' of the immune system

News Brief by Samuel Kessel

            Every day our immune system defends us from an array of invasive microorganisms including viruses, parasites, fungi, and cancerous cells. There are two main strategies the immune system uses to combat infection: innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity provides an immediate response to foreign invaders, however it is non-specific and some pathogens are able to escape detection. In order to neutralize these threats, the body's adaptive immunity is able to recognize a chemical signal on an invading pathogen and mount a specific attack by using what are known as T-Cells. These cells can recognize a disease-causing organism and create a specific response to the germs. Until recently,  B and T cells that produced the adaptive response were only partially understood because the tools to analyze the cells were not available.         
         An Italian research team has recently used Next Generation DNA Sequencing technology to look at the “identity card” of T lymphocytes. This research produced some surprising results, namely that T-cells with the same receptor (used to recognize foreign organisms) can have different functions and can migrate to different tissues. The approach this lab used allowed the scientists to rapidly characterize “ [T cells'] identity, specificity and function, and we can do it for the thousands of clones that mediate the immune response against microbes and vaccines,” according to Federica Sallusto. In the future, this research will impact how we study the effects of vaccines in the body now that we have a more detailed picture of the immune system.

Università della Svizzera italiana. "The language of T lymphocytes deciphered, the 'Rosetta Stone' of the immune system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2015. .

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