A recent research study done by scientists at the University of California has discovered that the immune cells of the body that fight off microbes and other invaders can also be reprogrammed or 'trained' to respond even more aggressively to such threats. The findings which were published on 18 June in the journal Science could pave the way for future targeted strategies to enhance the function of the immune system.
Quen Cheng, Assistant Clinical Professor of Infectious Diseases at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine said that the innate immune system of the body can be trained by past experiences to become better at fighting infections.
Cheng noted that the research previously observed that some experiences seemed to be better than others for immune training.
Quen Cheng, Assistant Clinical Professor of Infectious Diseases at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine said that the innate immune system of the body can be trained by past experiences to become better at fighting infections.It is about the wrapping of the DNA of the cell that decides how it performs after the immunity training. For example, in human cells, more than 6 feet of DNA must fit into a cell's nucleus, which is so small that it is not visible to the naked eye. To achieve this feat, the DNA is tightly wrapped into chromosomes. Only selected regions of the DNA are exposed and accessible, and only the genes in those accessible regions are able to respond and fight infection.
Senior author and UCLA's Thomas M. Asher Professor of Microbiology Alexander Hoffmann said that by introducing a stimulus to a macrophage - for example, a substance derived from a microbe or pathogen, as in the case of a vaccine - previously compacted DNA regions can be unwrapped. This unwrapping exposes new genes that will enable the cell to respond more aggressively, in essence training it to fight the next infection.
The researchers were able to simulate this training process with a mathematical model, and the predictive understanding they gleaned may allow for future precision-targeted engineering of trained immunity.