Finding may have ramifications for vaccines, autoimmunity and atherosclerosis
Scientists have uncovered a new method the immune system uses to label foreign invaders as targets to be attacked. Researchers showed that the immune system can brand foreign proteins by chemically modifying their structure, and that these modifications increased the chances that cells known as lymphocytes would recognize the trespassers and attack them. "Now that we know that some T cells need to see these types of modifications to identify an invader, we can see if incorporating such changes into the proteins is helpful for vaccination," says senior author Emil R. Unanue, M.D., the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and head of Pathology and Immunology.
The finding may also be relevant to autoimmune conditions where the immune system erroneously attacks healthy tissues. Such disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. "We show in this study that during some infections, these same types of modifications can be made to our own proteins, potentially leading to T cell attacks on the self," says Unanue.
Michael C. Purdy | EurekAlert!
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