Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

OHSU Researchers Make Key Immune System Discovery

Date:
December 4, 2002
Source:
Oregon Health & Science University
Summary:
A key discovery about the immune system's skill to fight off harmful disease-causing germs may lead to the ability to boost the immune systems of the elderly and otherwise susceptible, and offer more effective vaccines for the flu or AIDS, according to a study published in the current issue of Science.

PORTLAND, Ore.-- A key discovery about the immune system's skill to fight off harmful disease-causing germs may lead to the ability to boost the immune systems of the elderly and otherwise susceptible, and offer more effective vaccines for the flu or AIDS, according to a study published in the current issue of Science.

"This research is of particular interest to populations that are highly vulnerable to disease, such as the aging population," said Janko Nikolich-Zugich, M.D., Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Oregon Health Science University Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, who led the research. "We are currently facing the annual flu season where seniors are at a particularly higher risk than the rest of the population. In fact, the majority of the 20,000 people who die each year because of the flu are over 65 years of age. We hope that years down the road, this research finding will help us boost the immune systems of the elderly, reducing this staggering number of deaths."

Nikolich-Zugich and colleagues uncovered this finding by working with a mouse model to study T-cells, specialized white blood cells that can fight off infection when a disease-causing pathogen is detected. Their research not only provides significant information about the workings of the body's immune system, it also points to the ways the body efficiently gets rid of pathogens and recovers from infection.

Specifically the researchers used mice infected with the herpes simplex virus to look at the quality of the T-cell response against the virus. They concentrated on molecules that sit on the surface of infected cells and alert T-cells. These molecules are part of the major histocompatability complex (MHC) system, a key component of the body's immune defense system.

"The MHC molecules have two roles. First, they act like the traffic cops in the body. They look for invaders and, once they find them, they call in T-cells to defeat a pathogen," explained Nikolich-Zugich. "But, just as importantly, they also 'train' T-cells when the pathogen is not around. They do this by selecting and expanding only those T-cells that can be appropriately directed to find and destroy a pathogen when it attacks."

"Up to this point, we did not know whether both of these roles were important in combating infection. What we determined was that the 'training' function, previously overlooked, was exquisitely important," he said.

By providing "training" to a wide, diverse set of T-cells, some MHC molecules can ensure that the pathogen will be met by the very best T-cells, able to kill the pathogen promptly at the beginning of infection. The findings showed that this can prevent pathogen-induced disease and death. Thus, the more diverse set of T-cells an animal has, the better chance the cells have of detecting a pathogen early and successfully fighting it off. The fact that as people age their T-cell diversity drops helps explain why seniors are more susceptible to the flu and other diseases than the rest of the population.

The research team chose to study herpes because it is a virus that rarely mutates and is easier for the body to spot than other viruses like HIV, which can mutate rapidly. However, by devising ways to achieve and maintain T-cell diversity, researchers hope to achieve better detection of other pathogens, including the rapidly mutating ones such as the AIDS-causing HIV, and fight them off before infection progresses to a higher level. Similarly, maintaining T-cell diversity during aging would go a long way towards reducing age-related illness and death due to infectious diseases.

OHSU is Oregon's only health and research center and includes four schools, two hospitals, numerous primary care and specialty clinics, research institutes and centers, interdisciplinary centers, and community service programs. OHSU programs integrate the core missions of teaching, healing and discovery.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon Health & Science University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oregon Health & Science University. "OHSU Researchers Make Key Immune System Discovery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021204081032.htm>.
Oregon Health & Science University. (2002, December 4). OHSU Researchers Make Key Immune System Discovery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021204081032.htm
Oregon Health & Science University. "OHSU Researchers Make Key Immune System Discovery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021204081032.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins