Dynamic map of how cells fight microbes and preserve the memory created by Sanger Institute and University of Melbourne
The first full dynamic map of how cells learn to fight microbes - and remember what they did for future infections - has been created by researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and their collaborators.
Working with the University of Melbourne in Australia and others, and aided by machine learning, they charted the activity of tens of thousands of genes in mouse immune cells over the course of an infection by malaria-causing parasites.
The findings, published in Nature Immunology, could help scientists develop new vaccines and therapeutics for a range of diseases by guiding their research into immune cells known as CD4+ T cells, which are essential for generating immunity.
Dr Ashraful Haque, co-lead author from the University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute, said: “We traced thousands of individual genes to generate a map from initial infection to periods when cells firstly ‘decide’ between various immune roles for fighting the infection, and secondly preserve memories of that encounter. Our map revealed several novel genes that were active - in particular, in a type of CD4+ T cells called T follicular helper cells. These are essential for making antibodies that protect against malaria but have not yet been well studied.”
They have made their data freely available as a digital resource , helping researchers to track the response of individual genes after infection.
Dr Sarah Teichmann , co-lead author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “Importantly, while our map was generated using an experimental model of malaria, it will be useful for studying T cell responses in almost any infectious or non-infectious disease, or treatment in which T cells are involved. Further investigations are needed to confirm that human cells have a similar map to mouse CD4+ T cells. However, we hope this discovery can point researchers in the right direction towards developing new vaccines for infectious diseases, new immune-therapies for certain cancers, and novel ways to prevent auto-immune conditions.”
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