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 The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow
25.07.2017 | Rudolf-Virchow-Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin der Universität Würzburg

nachricht Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
25.07.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>