TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital investigate effects of initial influenza infection

Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital investigate effects of initial influenza infection. | Courtesy of Shutterstock

Harvard Medical School, together with Children’s Hospital, is at work on research that could indicate lasting effects left by the initial incidence of an influenza infection.

This groundbreaking study, led by Dr. Stephen Harrison, examines ways specific cells, called antibodies, react and behave in their natural states and when affected by influenza. Work to date indicates that initial presence of influenza affects the way the body responds to future occurrences of influences and influenza vaccines, called, in effect, a cellular state, similar to cellular memory of an infection and its vaccine.

The persistence of cellular states is significant for the development of new vaccines. This discovery could lead to development and availability of vaccines tailored for individuals, which makes vaccines more effective, especially in cases that are difficult to treat or in individuals allergic to current vaccines. 

First, author of the study Aaron Schmidt, said, "the approach demonstrates how early imprinting of our immune system by exposure to a particular virus can influence our response to later encounters," which echoes the potential for vaccine customization and increased effectiveness. 

The key to this potential and target of this research is a portion of viral cell structure called hemagglutinin. This structure binds to and retains cellular composition data and gears itself toward thriving in what it thinks is the best state and condition for long-term survival and spread. 

By altering the ways this structure retains cellular data and thrives, researchers hope to change cellular response so that the cells become increasingly receptive over time to vaccine, thereby making vaccination more effective for each recipient.

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