Our determination to understand how our bodies operate continues to reveal fascinating intricacies.
New research published in the journal of Nature Immunology exemplifies this. In the study, researchers from the ACRF funded Walter and Eliza Hall Institute reveal how immune cell ‘spies’ are created.
These dendritic cells, or ‘James Bond’ cells gather information on disease-causing agents to aid our bodies in fighting them.
“Dendritic cells are the intelligence-gathering cells that educate the immune system,” said Dr Naik from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
“They tell the infection-fighting T cells and NK cells what a virus, bacterium, fungus or cancer looks like so they know what they’re looking for when fighting disease”.
Prior to this discovery, it was thought that dendritic cells shared one ‘parent’. But researchers have found that we actually have an army of unique ‘parent’ cells that decide whether or not to multiply or generate new dendritic cells to help identify and fight disease.
What this new knowledge provides us with are clues on how the immune system could be manipulated to better fight disease. In examining and understanding at a molecular level how our body naturally fights diseases, we can then single out the cells that are doing the right thing and suppress any ‘James Bond’ cells that are aiming at the wrong target.
This discovery could not have been achieved without cutting-edge technology that allows scientists to single out individual immune cells, rather than try to examine thousands at once.
“We and others have been following this family tree from one daughter cell to the next to discover how each cell type is created and how the parent cell ‘decides’ if it should make more of itself or create the next cell type. By dissecting the heritage of these cells, we can find new targets to tackle a range of conditions including infectious diseases, cancers and immune disorders, and even make vaccines more effective,” says Dr Shalin Naik.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has received $5.5 million in grants from the ACRF which has funded technology to progress research in lymphoma, breast, lung and genomics.
The original article was published the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research website. To read the original article, please click here.