Researcher decodes the language of memory cells in Science article

Jan 22, 2009

When an infection attacks, the body's immune system sounds the alert, kills the invading germs and remembers the pathogen to protect against contracting the same type of infection again. Exactly how immunological memory develops is a mystery just beginning to be unveiled by Emma Teixeiro, PhD, in an article published in the Jan. 23 issue of the journal Science.

The key finding is that a distinct program generates the memory cells that protect an individual against re-infection. This current work uncovers some of the language that is necessary to start this program, said Teixeiro, assistant professor of molecular microbiology, immunology and surgery at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Teixeiro cites vaccination as the most practical example of how to generate cells that remember infections. With a single shot, the body is infected with a small dose of a pathogen, so the next time the body is exposed, it immediately recognizes the invader and fights it off, preventing disease.

"When the human body is infected, T cells recognize the pathogen with a specific receptor and kill the infection," Teixeiro said. "But once the infection has been cleared, a small number of cells survive. These are the memory T cells."

Teixeiro's lab used a mouse model to test how communication inside a T cell would affect a body's ability to fight infection. Two groups of mice - some with normal T cells and others with a mutation in their pathogen receptor - were infected with listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium often associated with food-borne illness in humans. Both groups of mice fought off the infection equally well, but those with the cell mutation were not able to generate memory T cells to protect against future infection due to a disruption in certain signals within the cell.

"A person with this cell mutation would not develop memory T cells. If we knew what was necessary to generate these memory cells, we would not need to worry about fighting the same infection over and over again," Teixeiro said, noting a direction for continued research. "We are currently figuring out which signals are important for memory generation and protection. This is important for improving vaccines and tumor immunotherapies."

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

Related Stories

Mexico boosts protection of near-extinct porpoise

3 hours ago

Mexico is greatly expanding a protected area of the Gulf of California and boosting navy patrols in an effort to save the vaquita marina, a small porpoise facing imminent extinction.

Court monitor: Apple antitrust cooperation has 'declined'

3 hours ago

Apple Inc.'s cooperation with efforts to improve its compliance with antitrust laws after a federal judge concluded it colluded with electronic book publishers to raise prices five years ago took on an "adversarial tone" ...

SEC questions LA Unified on use of bonds for iPad project

3 hours ago

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently questioned Los Angeles Unified School District officials as part of informal inquiry into whether they properly used bond funds for a beleaguered $1.3 billion project to provide ...

Recommended for you

DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

21 hours ago

Cancer DNA circulating in the bloodstream of lung cancer patients can provide doctors with vital mutation information that can help optimise treatment when tumour tissue is not available, an international group of researchers ...

Tumors prefer the easy way out

23 hours ago

Tumor cells become lethal when they spread. Blocking this process can be a powerful way to stop cancer. Historically, scientists thought that tumor cells migrated by brute force, actively pushing through whatever ...

Brain tumors may be new targets of Ebola-like virus

23 hours ago

Brain tumors are notoriously difficult for most drugs to reach, but Yale researchers have found a promising but unlikely new ally against brain cancers—portions of a deadly virus similar to Ebola.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

visual
not rated yet Jan 23, 2009
Worst article title, ever.
I mean, can it possibly get more misleading about what kind of memory it is referring exactly?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.