New discovery may help boost effectiveness of human vaccinesJanuary 28th, 2010 - 2:59 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, Jan 28 (ANI): The Scripps Research Institute scientists have come up with a novel approach to stimulate the immune system to prevent or clear a viral infection.
They claim that by blocking the action of a key protein in the mouse immune system, they were able to boost immune “memory” in those mice.
The new approach may one day help doctors increase the effectiveness of human vaccines designed to prevent viral infections.
The research team significantly boosted immune memory in mice by blocking a protein called interleukin-10 (IL-10).
According to lead researcher Michael Oldstone, during the initial immune response to a viral infection, the body produces a number of proteins that help speed the creation of immune cells that specifically target the virus.
These cells clear the virus from the bloodstream and destroy any host cells that are already infected. At the same time, the body carefully balances the “positive” signals that induce immunity with “negative ones” that dampen the immune response.
The purpose of this dampening is to prevent runaway immune responses that could damage a person’s own body and lead to autoimmunity.
The protein IL-10, for instance, dampens the immune system by shutting down production of CD4 and CD8 T cells-a function that Oldstone and his colleagues identified a few years ago. Some viruses have evolved ways of taking advantage of this.
They have the ability to turn up the production of IL-10, essentially shutting down parts of the immune system, which allows them to establish persistent infections.
The new study conducted on genetic knockout mice that were missing the genes necessary to produce IL-10 showed that during a viral infection, mice that cannot generate IL-10 produced more CD4+ T cell immune cells as compared to control mice.
Oldstone and his colleagues also showed the same effect can be achieved by blocking the IL-10 receptor in normal mice. They showed that giving antibodies designed to specifically target and block IL-10 to mice had the same effect: they enhanced immune response to the virus.
It may be possible to achieve the same effect in humans, says Oldstone. If a chemical that blocks IL-10 could be formulated and administered with a vaccine, it may specifically enhance the effectiveness of that vaccine.
The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). (ANI)
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