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How our immune system targets TB

First structures of the human immune system recognizing tuberculosis (TB)

Date:
December 7, 2016
Source:
Monash University
Summary:
Researchers have seen, for the very first time, how the human immune system recognizes tuberculosis (TB). These findings are the crucial step in developing better diagnostics and perhaps even vaccines for this deadly infection.
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Every 18 seconds someone dies from tuberculosis (TB). It is the world's most deadly infectious disease.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB, has infected over one-third of the entire human population with an annual death toll of approximately 1.5 million people.

For the first time, an international team of scientists from Monash and Harvard Universities have seen how, at a molecular level, the human immune system recognises TB infected cells and initiates an immune response. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, are the first step toward developing new diagnostic tools and novel immunotherapies.

Lead author, Professor Jamie Rossjohn says one of the main reasons for our current lack of knowledge comes down to the complexity of the bacterium itself. Working with Professor Branch Moody's team at Harvard, they have begun to gain key insight into how the immune system can recognise this bacterium.

Crucial to the success of M. tuberculosis as a pathogen is its highly unusual cell wall that not only serves as a barrier against therapeutic attack, but also modulates the host immune system. Conversely, its cell wall may also be the "Achilles' heel" of mycobacteria as it is essential for the growth and survival of these organisms. This unique cell wall is composed of multiple layers that form a rich waxy barrier, and many of these lipid -- also known as fatty acids -- components represent potential targets for T-cell surveillance.

Specifically, using the Australian Synchrotron, the team of scientists have shown how the immune system recognises components of the waxy barrier from the M. tuberculosis cell wall.

"With so many people dying from TB every year, any improvements in diagnosis, therapeutic design and vaccination will have major impacts," Professor Moody says.

"Our research is focussed on gaining a basic mechanistic understanding of an important biomedical question. And may ultimately provide a platform for designing novel therapeutics for TB and treat this devastating disease," Professor Rossjohn concludes.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Monash University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephanie Gras, Ildiko Van Rhijn, Adam Shahine, Tan-Yun Cheng, Mugdha Bhati, Li Lynn Tan, Hanim Halim, Kathryn D. Tuttle, Laurent Gapin, Jérôme Le Nours, D. Branch Moody, Jamie Rossjohn. T cell receptor recognition of CD1b presenting a mycobacterial glycolipid. Nature Communications, 2016; 13257 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13257

Cite This Page:

Monash University. "How our immune system targets TB: First structures of the human immune system recognizing tuberculosis (TB)." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207093024.htm>.
Monash University. (2016, December 7). How our immune system targets TB: First structures of the human immune system recognizing tuberculosis (TB). ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207093024.htm
Monash University. "How our immune system targets TB: First structures of the human immune system recognizing tuberculosis (TB)." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207093024.htm (accessed May 26, 2017).

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