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: Androgen deprivation therapy has lasting impact on function

Related Stories

Project Zero sheds more light on rowhammer problem

Mar 11, 2015

Researchers have discussed exploits with some DRAM memory devices, allowing attackers access to target machines. That was a Tuesday report from Threatpost's editor-in-chief Dennis Fisher, who is also securi ...

Sugar key to cellular protein protection and viability

Mar 16, 2015

A Simon Fraser University laboratory's breakthrough in understanding how a specialized sugar regulates protein levels in our cells could generate new targets for therapies to treat diseases caused by improper protein regulation. ...

Recommended for you

Breast cancer is not one disease, experts say

Mar 30, 2015

(HealthDay)—Breast cancer isn't the same for every woman, even at the cellular level, according to a new statement from four major medical groups focused on the disease.

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.