Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How do immune cells detect infections?

Date:
June 7, 2013
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
Researchers are using computer simulations to shed light on how immune cells may identify foreign antigens.

Immune T-cells have to distinguish foreign ligands (red) from self-ligands (green) using an internal biochemical toolbox.
Credit: Image courtesy of McGill University

How do immune cells manage to sort through vast numbers of similar-looking proteins within the body to detect foreign invaders and fight infections?

"For immune cells, singling out foreign proteins is like looking for a needle in a haystack -- where the needle may look very much like a straw, and where some straws may also look very much like a needle," notes McGill University physics professor Paul François.

Understanding how immune cells tackle this formidable challenge is important, because it could provide crucial insights into the understanding of immune diseases, from AIDS to auto-immune disorders.

In a study published May 21 in the journal Physical Review Letters, François and McGill graduate student Jean-Benoît Lalanne used computational tools to examine what kind of solutions immune systems may use to detect small concentrations of foreign antigens (characteristic of potentially harmful infections) in a sea of "self-antigens" normally present at the surface of cells.

The researchers' computer simulations yielded a surprisingly simple solution related to the well-known phenomenon of biochemical adaptation -- a general biochemical mechanism that enable organisms to cope with varying environmental conditions.

To find solutions, the computer uses an algorithm inspired by Darwinian evolution. This algorithm, designed previously within the François research group, randomly generates mathematical models of biochemical networks. It then scores them by comparing properties of these networks to predefined properties of the immune system. Networks with best scores are duplicated in the next generation and mutated, and the process is iterated over many simulated "generations" until networks reach a perfect score.

In this case, almost all solutions found were very similar, sharing a common core structure or motif.

"Our approach provides a simpler theoretical framework and understanding of what happens" as immune cells sort through the "haystack" to detect foreign antigens and trigger the immune response, François says. "Our model shares many similarities with real immune networks. Strikingly, the simplest evolved solution we found has both similar characteristics and some of the blind spots of real immune cells we studied in a previous collaborative study with the groups of Grégoire Altan-Bonnet (Memorial Sloane Kettering, New York), Eric Siggia (Rockefeller University, New York) and Massimo Vergassola (Pasteur Institute, Paris)."

Funding for the research was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Human Frontier Science Program.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Jean-Benoît Lalanne, Paul François. Principles of Adaptive Sorting Revealed by In Silico Evolution. Physical Review Letters, 2013; 110 (21) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.218102

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "How do immune cells detect infections?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130607130557.htm>.
McGill University. (2013, June 7). How do immune cells detect infections?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130607130557.htm
McGill University. "How do immune cells detect infections?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130607130557.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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