JUN 10, 2021 7:15 AM PDT

Decoding the Immune System's Language

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes

Scientists at UCLA have decoded the “vocabulary” of immune cells—six distinct signals used as flares to deploy immune defenses.

In the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Immunity, researchers found that the use of the wrong signals can lead to the activation of the wrong genes, initiating autoimmune diseases.

“Cells have evolved an immune response code, or language,” said senior author Alexander Hoffmann.

“We have identified some words in that language, and we know these words are important because of what happens when they are misused. Now we need to understand the meaning of the words, and we are making rapid progress. It’s as exciting as when archaeologists discovered the Rosetta stone and could begin to read Egyptian hieroglyphs.” 

The immune system coordinates its security efforts by using unique signaling codons, the “words” that communicate which genes to express to best eliminate a specific threat. Upon closer inspection, the research team decoded the signaling codons used by immune cells that correlated to specific pathogens. They also analyzed the same signals in a mouse model of an autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s syndrome.

“Indeed, we found defects in the use of two of these words,” Hoffmann said. “It’s as if instead of saying, ‘Respond to attacker down the street,’ the cells are incorrectly saying, ‘Respond to attacker in the house.’”

These findings were a result of an exhaustive search, which saw the scientists analyze over 12,000 cells, tracking their signals in response to a panel of 27 immune threats. The team relied on a machine learning algorithm to model the immune responses of the macrophages, which led them to the discovery that all six words were critical for mounting the appropriate immune response.

 


Sources: UCLA, Immunity.

About the Author
PhD
Interested in health technology and innovation.
You May Also Like
SEP 09, 2022
Immunology
Antibodies are Sometimes Made with 'Stolen' DNA
SEP 09, 2022
Antibodies are Sometimes Made with 'Stolen' DNA
The human immune system must respond to a diverse array of infectious agents and harmful invaders throughout our lifetim ...
OCT 13, 2022
Cancer
Gene Editing Beyond CRISPR-Cas9: Base Editors
OCT 13, 2022
Gene Editing Beyond CRISPR-Cas9: Base Editors
Point mutations change one or very few nucleotides in DNA, but they cause an estimated 30,000 genetic diseases in humans ...
OCT 12, 2022
Coronavirus
Huge Studies Evaluate COVID-19 Vaccines & Side Effects
OCT 12, 2022
Huge Studies Evaluate COVID-19 Vaccines & Side Effects
Researchers have now had years to evaluate the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and the news is good. The mRNA ...
NOV 11, 2022
Immunology
Regenerating the Immune System to Halt Multiple Sclerosis
NOV 11, 2022
Regenerating the Immune System to Halt Multiple Sclerosis
A bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant has been an effective but risky way to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), and no ...
NOV 25, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
How a Multivalent Flu Vaccine Could Fight Against Future Pandemics
NOV 25, 2022
How a Multivalent Flu Vaccine Could Fight Against Future Pandemics
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed an experimental mRNA vaccine that protects against all known ...
NOV 29, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Chemotherapy May Increase Disease Susceptibility for Two Generations
NOV 29, 2022
Chemotherapy May Increase Disease Susceptibility for Two Generations
A common chemotherapy drug may make future generations more susceptible to disease. The corresponding study was publishe ...
Loading Comments...