Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Immunology
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Immune Cells Cluster and Communicate ‘Like Bees,’ Researcher Says

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013
Bookmark and Share
UCSF study on T-cell behavior sheds light on how vaccines work.

The immune system’s T cells, while coordinating responses to diseases and vaccines, act like honey bees sharing information about the best honey sources, according to a new study by scientists at UC San Francisco.

“In the morning, each bee goes looking individually for a sugar source, then comes back to the hive and does a dance in front of the other bees describing the location of what it’s found, which helps the hive decide collectively where the best source is,” said senior scientist Matthew Krummel, PhD, a UCSF professor of pathology.

They don’t bust the same moves as bees, but T cells gather together and communicate essential information to each other in a similar way, Krummel said, thereby helping to coordinate immune responses directed against invading pathogens. This discovery might lead to useful therapeutic interventions to fight disease, according to Krummel.

Results of the study were published online March 10 in Nature Immunology.

Helping the Immune System to Recognize a Pathogen
Krummel’s lab team found that after individual T cells survey lymph nodes and sample foreign matter, such as vaccines, bacteria or viruses, they come together as a group during what he and his team call the “critical differentiation period.” This occurs several hours to one day after exposure.

“They cluster together for the purpose of sharing information, transmitting what they’ve discovered about the new pathogen or vaccine, which in turn helps the immune system mount a coordinated response to the foreign matter,” Krummel said.

The discovery is important, Krummel said, because it sheds light on an aspect of medicine that has long been obscure: how vaccines work. “We know that they are effective for years after a vaccination, but we don’t know why. It seems that T-cell aggregation is a profound part of the reason.”

Krummel’s team found that the critical differentiation period is essential to the formation of what is known as a “memory pool,” the mechanism by which the immune system recognizes a pathogen to which it had been exposed months or years previously.

“Without that long-term memory, vaccines would be useless,” Krummel said. “The body wouldn’t remember that it had been exposed to a particular pathogen, such as measles or diphtheria, and would not know how to successfully fight it off.”

In experiments with a mouse model of human immune function, the scientists vaccinated mice for listeria, a common bacterium that causes food-borne illness, and then exposed the animals to the bacteria.

Mice in which the critical differentiation period was allowed to occur unimpeded remained healthy, protected from a potentially lethal infection. In mice in which T-cell differentiation was blocked, said Krummel, “it was as if the mice had never been vaccinated at all.”

Krummel said the work also opens up new paths of research in immunology, which his laboratory is currently pursuing. “Now that we know that there is a nexus at which the cells are integrating their responses, we might be able to design cells that will join that nexus in order to get the cells to do things we want them to do - push immune response in a particular direction, or enhance it overall,” he said.

Conversely, Krummel speculated that in case of autoimmune disorders, such as diabetes or lupus, “it might be possible to attenuate the immune response by blocking the formation of a memory pool.”

“You can’t eliminate insulin, which is what much of the immune response is reacting to in diabetes,” he said. “But if you can tweak the immune cells in the right way, then although each cell would be responding to insulin, they would not be reacting as a group and thus may not become effective at killing the insulin-producing cells. That would severely weaken the autoimmune effect."

Krummel cautioned that while the mouse model of human immune response is “robust and very well-grounded,” research will ultimately have to take place in humans, “which will be years away. We’ll have to see what happens.”


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
Researchers Discover Immune System’s 'Trojan Horse'
Oxford University researchers have found that human cells use viruses as Trojan horses, transporting a messenger that encourages the immune system to fight the very virus that carries it.
Researchers Discover New Type of Mycovirus
Virus infects the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause the human disease aspergillosis.
Sorting Through Cellular Statistics
Aaron Dinner, professor in chemistry, and his graduate student Herman Gudjonson are trying to read the manual of life, DNA, as part of the Dinner group’s research into bioinformatics—the application of statistics to biological research.
Women’s Immune System Genes Operate Differently from Men’s
A new technology reveals that immune system genes switch on and off differently in women and men, and the source of that variation is not primarily in the DNA.
Experimental MERS Vaccine Shows Promise in Animal Studies
A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines.
HIV Susceptibility Linked to Little-Understood Immune Cell Class
High levels of diversity among immune cells called natural killer cells may strongly predispose people to infection by HIV, and may be driven by prior viral exposures, according to a new study.
New Weapon in the Fight Against Blood Cancer
This strategy, which uses patients’ own immune cells, genetically engineered to target tumors, has shown significant success against multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that is largely incurable.
Scientists Create CRISPR/Cas9 Knock-In Mutations in Human T Cells
In a project spearheaded by investigators at UC San Francisco, scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human T cells using the genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9.
Researchers Develop Vaccine that Protects Primates Against Ebola
A collaborative team from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the National Institutes of Health have developed an inhalable vaccine that protects primates against Ebola.
Universal Flu Vaccine in the Works
A new study has demonstrated a potential strategy for developing a flu vaccine with potent, broad protection.
SELECTBIO

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!