NOV 11, 2015 10:16 AM PST

Scientists Are One Step Closer to Improving the Flu Vaccine

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
A single signaling protein required for a successful immune attack against viral infections may be the key to improving the influenza vaccine. 

Tumor progression locus 2 (Tpl2) protein regulates inflammation during the immune response to viral invaders by managing the production of interferon proteins. Scientists from the University of Georgia (UGA) wanted to find out exactly how Tpl2 regulates the immune response through this interaction, and they published their findings in a recent PLoS Pathogens article.

Interferons are secreted by host immune cells when the body is invaded by pathogens (Nature). Interferons then recruit more immune cells to take care of the infection. 

In order to determine the specific action of Tpl2 during viral infection, the team from UGA compared the response of Tpl2 knockout mice with functional mice to an influenza infection. The Tpl2 knockout mice ended up having ten times as much virus in their lungs than the functional mice. In addition, they had a reduced cytotoxic T cell count, lymphocytes that are needed to clear flu virus out of the lungs. 

When the scientists looked further into the interferon content of the two groups of mice, they found that while the Tpl2 knockout mice produced a normal amount of Type I interferon proteins, they produced significantly less Type III interferons than the functional mice. This distinction is important since Type III interferons are more "highly expressed at mucosal sites," indicating their necessity for a successful immune attack against the flu. 

"Ultimately the goal is to generate better vaccines so that we can drive immunologic memory and protect people against subsequent infections," Dr. Wendy Watford said of the study's significance. 

Although immediately useful for the flu virus, this discovery could also be beneficial for vaccine research for other viruses infecting mucosal sites like rotavirus and syncytial virus. The group from UGA plans to continue looking at the role of Tpl2 in different disease settings. 

Watch the following animation to see how interferons work in the immune response to viruses.
Source: University of Georgia
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 16, 2021
Immunology
What Happens When Your Immune System Forgets
MAR 16, 2021
What Happens When Your Immune System Forgets
One of the most remarkable features of the immune system is its ability to “remember” past encounters with p ...
MAR 22, 2021
Immunology
Gene Mutation Keeps Tumors "Cold"
MAR 22, 2021
Gene Mutation Keeps Tumors "Cold"
Immunologists have identified a mechanism through which an oncogene mutation shields pancreatic tumors from immune cells ...
APR 01, 2021
Immunology
The Curious Case of COVID Immunity...a Threat to Vaccination Efforts?
APR 01, 2021
The Curious Case of COVID Immunity...a Threat to Vaccination Efforts?
After COVID infection, there’s a spectrum of diversity in how long antibodies against the coronavirus hang around& ...
MAR 31, 2021
Microbiology
Deep-Sea Microbes Are 'Invisible' to the Human Immune System
MAR 31, 2021
Deep-Sea Microbes Are 'Invisible' to the Human Immune System
Scientists took an exploratory journey to a place in the central Pacific Ocean in Kirbati called the Phoenix Islands Pro ...
MAY 11, 2021
Immunology
Immune Cells Help Brain Tumors Spread, but We Can Stop Them
MAY 11, 2021
Immune Cells Help Brain Tumors Spread, but We Can Stop Them
Researchers have discovered how a glitch in the brain’s immune system can inadvertently cause an accelerated growt ...
JUN 16, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Potential Way to Prevent Metastatic Cancer
JUN 16, 2021
A Potential Way to Prevent Metastatic Cancer
Metastatic cancer is the deadliest, and it can happen years after cancer has been treated to the point of remission. Met ...
Loading Comments...