Friday, April 13, 2012
Australia - Rare Immune Cells Could Hold Key To Treating Immune Disorders
Researchers have discovered a rare cell type, called T follicular helper cells, that are needed for antibody production and long-lasting ‘memory’ of infectious agents.
The characterization of a rare immune cell’s involvement in antibody production and ability to ‘remember’ infectious agents could help to improve vaccination and lead to new treatments for immune disorders, say researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
In a study published in Nature Immunology, the team, led by senior author Dr. Stephen Nutt and first author Dr. Katja Lüthje, discovered a rare cell type, called T follicular helper cells, that are needed for antibody production and long-lasting ‘memory’ of infectious agents.
The cells represent less than half of one percent of all immune cells, but play a critical role in antibody production and developing long-lasting immunity.
“Antibodies are fundamental to the body’s defense against infection,” Lüthje said. “Antibody production critically relies on the interaction of two cell types: B cells that produce antibody, and helper T cells that recruit and ‘teach’ the B cells how to respond to infectious agents.
In this study, we used a special fluorescent protein to help identify exactly which cells were involved in the process, and discovered that, amongst the rare T follicular helper cells, only a subset were actively involved in instructing B cells in antibody production.”
Nutt said that one of the key findings made by the research team was that T follicular helper cells can remember being exposed to infectious agents, allowing them to rapidly react to subsequent attacks.
Another key finding was that T follicular helper cells show a remarkable flexibility in their role in immunity.
“We found that T follicular helper cells are pretty flexible, adapting to carry out several different functions depending on where they are needed,” said senior co-author Associate Professor Tarlinton.
The same cells are also dramatically increased in chronic inflammatory disease, which include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, suggesting that they could be therapeutic targets for treating these diseases.
“In fact, it has been found that T follicular helper cells, in mouse models, were actually the cause of an autoimmune disease very much like lupus in humans. This suggests that modulating these cells could be a potential treatment for autoimmune conditions,” said Tarlington.
The article can be found at: Lüthje K et al. (2012) The development and fate of follicular helper T cells defined by an IL-21 reporter mouse.