Researchers at National Jewish Health have discovered a novel genetic mechanism of immune deficiency. Magdalena M. Gorska, MD, PhD, and Rafeul Alam, MD, PhD, identified a mutation in Unc119 that causes immunodeficiency known as idiopathic CD4 lymphopenia. Unc119 is a signaling protein that activates and induces T cell proliferation. The mutation impairs Unc119 ability to activate T cells. Dr. Gorska, presented her findings at Translational Science 2012, an NIH-funded conference in Washington D.C. "A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms associated with this mutation will improve diagnosis and pave the way for development of new therapies, " said Dr. Gorska. Drs. Gorska and Alam previously published their findings in the journal Blood, and Dr. Gorska delivered a Presidential Plenary on the topic at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
A new study of 193, 083 adults, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, reveals that the herpes zoster vaccine, also called the shingles vaccine, is safe for preventing shingles, a chickenpox virus rash which affects more than 1 million people annually in the United States. Shingles is extremely painful and infectious, and the virus can return to a person's body multiple times, causing damage to the nervous system. It is common in older people and dangerous to their health, because their immune systems are weaker than younger people's, and immunity to the virus lessens the older a person gets. The Vaccine Safety Datalink project, or the VSD project, which oversees the safety of immunizations, is a combined effort of care organizations, such as Kaiser Permanente, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An international research team led by scientists from Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) under the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) discovered that a special class of fatty molecules is essential for activating a unique group of early-responding immune cells. This study sheds light on how recognition of fatty molecules by immune cells could protect from infection, allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases and cancer. More importantly, it offers new opportunities to exploit the use of these stimulatory fatty molecules in therapeutic interventions, such as the development of new vaccines and drugs targetted for autoimmune diseases. The early-responding immune cells investigated in this study, called the invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells, are important as first line of defence against infectious and foreign agents.
A team of scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University have pinpointed the region on dengue virus that is neutralized in people who overcome infection with the deadly pathogen. The results challenge the current state of dengue vaccine research, which is based on studies in mice and targets a different region of the virus. "In the past researchers have relied on mouse studies to understand how the immune system kills dengue virus and assumed that the mouse studies would apply to people as well, " said senior study author Aravinda M. de Silva, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the UNC School of Medicine. "Our study for the first time shows what region the immune system of humans target when they are fighting off the virus.
The immune system is a vital part of our defenses against pathogens, but it can also attack host tissues, resulting in autoimmune disease. The antigens that induce destructive immune reactions can now be identified directly - without any prior knowledge of their possible structure. Molecules that activate immune responses, generically termed antigens, are recognized by circulating immune cells. In the case of autoimmune reactions, such responses may lead to the destruction of body tissues. A new method that can identify the antigens that initiate such reactions may help to prevent misdirected attacks in the future. Using genetic engineering techniques, researchers at LMU and the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology have generated cells that emit green fluorescent light when stimulated by the binding of a cognate antigen.