New findings could help develop vaccines for respiratory infections

Researchers at the Trudeau Institute reported in the current Journal of Experimental Medicine that they have identified two signaling components that could potentially allow for cellular immunity against the influenza virus and lead to vaccines against respiratory infections.

The new findings could potentially allow scientists to pre-position influenza virus-fighting T cells to the lungs, which is the site of origination for influenza infection.

“It has become apparent that protective cellular immunity to viruses like influenza requires white blood cells to be pre-positioned in the lungs, the site of initial infection," Trudeau Institute president and project leader David L. Woodland told “This approach has led to efforts to develop vaccines that persuade cells to localize in the respiratory tract. That, however, has turned out to be difficult, because we don't fully understand the signals that direct immune cell migration to distinct locations in the body.”

The first T cell, needed to kick antibodies into gear is a residual antigen, according to Woodland. This residual antigen stays in the lungs weeks after the primary infection has been cleared.

The second T cell is what Woodland refers to as an “imprinting event.” Its job is to tell T cells where the infection entered the body. Theoretically, it will also tell cells where they need to go to stave off infections in the future.

Woodland said the research could hold vast ramifications for future vaccine research and could even help scientists develop a vaccine for respiratory infections.