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of the mammalian immune response
An unsuspected link between the mammalian immune system and the communication systems of simpler organisms such as bacteria has been uncovered.
cientists were hoping to identify
of dendritic cells to make them more effective and also
activating molecules for a rare but crucial subset of
recruit and coordinate the responses of T- and B-type
immune system cells that help rally other white blood
cells to fight infection when they made the discovery.
“Because of their dual functions, NKT cells are
The findings could lead to novel therapeutic
a bridge between the body’s innate immunity, which
approaches for diseases such as type 1 diabetes that
is characterised by rapid but less specific responses to
are the result of immune system overactivity, as well
pathogens, and adaptive or acquired immunity, which
as new ways to boost the effectiveness of vaccines,
is composed of specialised white blood cells that can
according to study leader Luc Teyton, a professor
remember past invaders,” Teyton said.
in The Scripps Research Institute’s Department of Immunology and Microbial Science.
Previous studies indicated that NKT cells are activated by molecules known as glycolipids that dendritic cells produce and then display on their outer surfaces. It
was widely assumed that the activating molecules were
When a virus, bacteria or foreign substance invades the
a class of glycolipids known as β-glycosylceramides, an
body, specialised cells known as dendritic cells present
important component of nervous system cells.
in the skin and other organs capture the trespassers and
However, this hypothesis had not been thoroughly
convert them into smaller pieces called antigens that
examined, in part because there is no chemical test
they then display on their cell surfaces. White blood
currently available to distinguish between two forms of
cells known as T and B cells recognise the antigens to
the molecule that have slightly different configurations
launch very specific attacks on the invaders.
- β-glycosylceramide and α-glycosylceramide. In
Dendritic cells also activate a specialised population
addition, when scientists attempt to create either form
of T cells known as type 1 diabetes (NKT) cells. Once
synthetically for testing, there is always the possibility
activated, NKT cells can commandeer the functions
of small contamination of one by the other.
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