Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Immune peacekeepers discovered

18.10.2011
How our skin says, 'Don't worry, these are good guys,' revealed today in PNAS

Sydney: Tuesday 18 October 2011 -- There are more bacteria living on our skin and in our gut than cells in our body. We need them. But until now no-one knew how the immune system could tell that these bacteria are harmless.

Centenary Institute researchers in Sydney have discovered a set of peacekeepers—immune cells in the outer layers of our skin that stop us from attacking friendly bacteria.

The work will open the way to new therapeutic options for immune-mediated diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, of which Australia has some of the world's highest rates.

In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Professor Barbara Fazekas de St Groth and her team have shown that the immune cells in the outer layer of the skin constantly act as peacekeepers to stop the immune system from reacting the way it normally would. Known as Langerhans cells, they resisted every attempt by the researchers to get them to generate an immune response.

The researchers worked with a group of mice in which only the Langerhans cells could stimulate the immune system. They then activated the Langerhans cells and measured the response.

"No matter what we threw at them to get them to activate a long-term immune response, the Langerhans cells always induced immune tolerance," Prof Fazekas says.

This result seems to go against the prevailing wisdom in immunology about the workings of dendritic cells, the class of immune cell to which Langerhans cells belong.

Dendritic cells engulf bacteria, viruses or other invaders and put a marker from that invader, known as an antigen, on a protein that can bind to other immune cells.

The antigen reprograms passing T cells, the workhorses of the immune system, which then set off a cascade of responses that eventually lead to the destruction of anything displaying that antigen.

However, the Centenary team (which is affiliated with the University of Sydney and RPA Hospital) found Langerhans cells are very different from other dendritic cells: after turning on the helper T cells, they tell them to self-destruct instead.

"This is the opposite of what you'd usually expect. In previous studies of immune cells, if there was a flurry of activity, we assumed it was the start of a long-term immune response," Prof Fazekas says.

However, the immune system is a layered defence¬—the next layer of skin has different kinds of dendritic cells, which program on-going responses against bacteria. So if bacteria penetrate deep enough to meet these cells, the immune response will kill them.

In inflammatory bowel disease, which afflicts thousands of Australians, the immune system is activated against the gut bacteria, which are usually left alone.

This discovery opens up possible ways to figure out why this disorder occurs and to find treatments to a range of diseases of the immune system.

"There is so much we don't know about the immune system, but sometimes just mimicking what the system does, like we do with vaccines, can work very well" Prof Fazekas says,

"If we do manage to mimic what Langerhans cells do, then we could develop treatments that would precisely tolerise against specific antigens – just like the immune system of the skin does now."

Centenary Institute executive director Professor Mathew Vadas says this latest paper comes just weeks after Centenary researcher Patrick Bertolino made the front cover of PNAS for his paper on immune response in the liver.

"The Centenary Institute is interested in understanding how the immune system works—these discoveries and others already in the pipeline here are a major step forward towards that goal," Prof Vadas says.

For interviews contact: Barbara Fazekas de St Groth:+61 2 9565 6137

For hi-res images, backgrounder, paper and full release go to: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/centenary or call Andrew Wight on (03) 9398 1416, +61 422 982.

Suzie Graham | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.centenary.org.au

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)

nachricht CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>