Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers add crucial information on how the body's T cells react to parasitic diseases

In the 1980s, the phrase “T cell count” burst into the world’s medical vocabulary as thousands and then millions of patients died of AIDS. The public began to understand the crucial importance of T cells—cellular Pac-Men that roam the bloodstream gobbling up infection and guarding against future attacks.

While scientists understood how T cells worked in certain kinds of diseases, one area has remained murky: disorders caused by protozoan parasites. Now, because of a study just published and led by scientists at the University of Georgia, researchers are closer than ever to understanding how T cells respond to parasitic diseases that kill millions each year.

“We have needed to really know what happens in these infections,” said Rick Tarleton, research professor of cellular biology and a faculty member in UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (CTEGD). “What is the body’s response? This study is the first to show that one parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas Disease, elicits a T cell response focused on a few peptides, despite having some 12,000 genes capable of generating hundreds of thousands of potential targets for T cells.”

The study was just published in the online journal PLOS Pathogens, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science. Other authors of the paper include: Diana Martin, the lead author and postdoctoral fellow at UGA; former UGA undergraduates Melissa Cabinian and Matthew Crim; computational biologist Brent Weatherly of the CTEGD; former UGA postdoctoral fellow Susan Sullivan; doctoral students Matt Collins, Charles Rosenberg and Sarah Craven; Alessandro Sette of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in San Diego, Ca.; and Susana Laucella and Miriam Postan of the Nacional de Laboratorios e Institutos de Salud in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

... more about:
»T cells »Tarleton »crucial »parasitic

Chagas Disease is a tropical parasitic disease that sickens as many as 18 million people a year, mostly in the Americas, and kills 50,000 of those. The parasite that carries it, T. cruzi, is transmitted to mammals and humans through the bite of several genera of flying, biting insects. What intrigued Tarleton was that T cell response to infection from T. cruzi, while important to the body’s ability to fight disease, has remained somewhat cryptic because of the daunting complexity of the processes.

There are actually several kinds of T cells, and the ones Tarleton and his colleagues studied are the cytotoxic T cell, which scientists call CD8+. What they discovered is that the T cell response in T. cruzi is highly focused on a relatively small set of cellular features called “epitopes,” which are part of a macromolecule that is recognized by the immune system. The specific epitopes involved are ones encoded by the trans-sialidase (or “ts”) family of genes.

“The function of the ts genes is crucial for the parasite,” said Tarleton, “because the parasite must have sialic acids to invade cells and infect the host. But since it doesn’t have it, it must steal it from the host cells.” The problem is that T. cruzi potentially expresses more than a thousand ts genes, and this pool varies from parasite to parasite—making this set of proteins a poor choice for vaccine development, Tarleton said.

The importance of the new research, however, isn’t in specifically what happens in T. cruzi and Chagas Disease. Rather, it is a new understanding of how T cells react to infection in all parasitic diseases, including malaria, which may cause as many as 500 million infections and three million deaths annually in humans. The entire area has been little understood because of the almost impenetrable complexity of the problem.

In organisms like viruses and bacteria, which have relatively small genomes, analysis can be more direct; however, understanding the targets of the T cell response in complex pathogens such as T. cruzi requires much more. Scientists must integrate information generated from the recent analysis of the T. cruzi genome and proteome, with bioinformatics and cutting-edge techniques like advanced flow cytometry to unravel what is happening.

Grant support for the research came from the National Institutes of Health.

Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: T cells Tarleton crucial parasitic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark
28.10.2016 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis
28.10.2016 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Steering a fusion plasma toward stability

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>