Immune cell could improve treatment of viral skin infection

April 13th, 2009 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, April 13 (IANS) The local action of immune cells in the skin could improve treatment of viral infections, according to a recent discovery.
A new study identifies previously unrecognised first-line defence mechanisms that are particularly important in the skin and the gut, often used as entry points by viruses and bacteria.

Researchers examined two aspects of anti-viral immune responses. They studied the cells involved in the initial stimulation of the immune response, and the cells that remember past infections to boost the response after reinfection.

They did this by using a model infection with herpes simplex virus - a virus best known for causing cold sores but also associated with life threatening diseases in certain individuals and newborns.

The study details findings on the function of the cells that trigger the initial immune response to viral infection - known as dendritic cells.

“Dendritic cells are like police patrolling our blood and tissues for anything unusual. There are many different types of them, so we wanted to examine how they differ in their function,” said Sammy Bedoui, a microbiologist, who is the study co-author.

Using an animal model of skin infection with the cold sore virus, researchers showed for the first time that a particular type of dendritic cell was responsible for triggering the immune response.

These cells do this by presenting virus particles to Killer T cells, which triggers a cascade of immune responses to tackle infection, said a Melbourne release.

The results could not only provide help in the treatment of viral skin infections, but also of auto-immune diseases of the skin such as Psoriasis, where dendritic cells trigger the immune system to attack the body’s own cells.

The work was published in two articles in the advanced online March and April editions of Nature Immunology.

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