Thousands of new immune system signals have been uncovered with potential implications for immunotherapy, autoimmune diseases and vaccine development.
The researchers behind the finding say it is the biological equivalent of discovering a new continent.
It’s as if a geographer would tell you they had discovered a new continent, or an astronomer would say they had found a new planet in the solar system. And just as with those discoveries, we have a lot of exploring to do.
– Professor Michael Stumpf
Our cells regularly break down proteins from our own bodies and from foreign bodies, such as viruses and bacteria. Small fragments of these proteins, called epitopes, are displayed on the surface of the cells like little flags so that the immune system can scan them. If they are recognised as foreign, the immune system will destroy the cell to prevent the spread of infection.
In a new study, researchers have discovered that around one third of all the epitopes displayed for scanning by the immune system are a type known as ‘spliced’ epitopes.
These spliced epitopes were thought to be rare, but the scientists have now identified thousands of them by developing a new method that allowed them to map the surface of cells and identify a myriad of previously unknown epitopes.
The findings should help scientists to better understand the immune system, including autoimmune diseases, as well as provide potential new targets for immunotherapy and vaccine design.
The research was led by Dr Juliane Liepe from Imperial College London and Dr Michele Mishto from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany in collaboration with the LaJolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and Utrecht University, and it is published today in Science.
Co-author of the study Professor Michael Stumpf from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial said: “It’s as if a geographer would tell you they had discovered a new continent, or an astronomer would say they had found a new planet in the solar system.
“And just as with those discoveries, we have a lot of exploring to do. This could lead to not only a deeper understanding of how the immune system operates, but also suggests new avenues for therapies and drug and vaccine development.”
Prior to the new study, scientists thought that the machinery in a cell created signalling peptides by cutting fragments out of proteins in sequence, and displaying these in order on the surface of the cell.
However, this cell machinery can also create ‘spliced’ peptides by cutting two fragments from different positions in the protein and then sticking them together out of order, creating a new sequence.
Scientists knew about the existence of the spliced epitopes, but they were thought to be rare. The new study suggests that spliced epitopes actually make up a large proportion of signalling epitopes: they make up around a quarter of the overall number of epitopes, and account for 30-40 per cent of the diversity – the number of different kinds of epitopes.
PROS AND CONS
These extra epitopes give the immune system more to scan, and more possibilities of detecting disease. However, as the spliced epitopes are mixed sequences, they also have the potential to overlap with the sequences of healthy signallers and be misidentified as harmful.
This could help scientists understand autoimmune diseases, where the immune system turns against normal body tissues, such as in Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
The study’s lead author, Dr Juliane Liepe from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “The discovery of the importance of spliced peptides could present pros and cons when researching the immune system.
“For example, the discovery could influence new immunotherapies and vaccines by providing new target epitopes for boosting the immune system, but it also means we need to screen for many more epitopes when designing personalised medicine approaches.”
The Latest on: Immune system
via Google News
The Latest on: Immune system
- 10 newborns with 'bubble boy' immune disease cured with gene therapy on April 17, 2019 at 3:39 pm
Ten babies with severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID)–essentially born without a functioning immune system–were treated with a new gene therapy that uses the HIV virus, according ... […]
- Infants cured of 'bubble boy' immune disease with experimental gene therapy on April 17, 2019 at 3:15 pm
“Because infants with this disorder have no functioning immune system, without treatment, a diagnosis of SCID is a true death sentence,” said Dr. Ewelina Mamcarz of the Department of Bone ... […]
- Gene therapy cures infants with ‘bubble boy’ immune disease on April 17, 2019 at 3:00 pm
It’s exciting to see this wave of treatments actually becoming a reality.” Infants with SCID are essentially born without a functioning immune system. Without treatment, they rarely survive past their ... […]
- Vitamin D Study Sheds Light On Immune System Effects (video) on April 17, 2019 at 8:35 am
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have uncovered fresh insights into how vitamin D affects the immune system. They found it prevents key cells called dendritic cells and T cells from forming a ... […]
- Vitamin D study sheds light on immune system effects on April 17, 2019 at 7:58 am
Scientists have uncovered fresh insights into how vitamin D affects the immune system and might influence susceptibility to diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D is produced by the body in ... […]
- I’m convinced this $13 throat spray with ingredients produced by bees has helped my immune system on April 17, 2019 at 7:24 am
Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our ... […]
- Health Authorities Now Warn Against the Foods That Destroy the Immune System on April 17, 2019 at 2:13 am
According to scientists, some foods and their ingredients could weaken immune system health. It is important to understand that nutrition is one factor when considering the weakness or strength of ... […]
- Three studies show how tumors hijack the immune system to resist radiation therapy on April 17, 2019 at 12:59 am
More than a decade ago, radiation oncologists noticed a nifty phenomenon: Sometimes radiation used locally against a tumor could excite the immune system to attack cancer systemically throughout ... […]
- Vaccination and the immune system on April 16, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Videographic explaining how vaccinations work. Measles cases in the US surged even as authorities in New York, site of the two biggest outbreaks, faced court challenges over their attempts to compel ... […]
via Bing News