Scientists at the University of Birmingham recently conducted a study that revealed the human body’s ability to prime genes to remember infections, giving the immune system a memory of earlier infections.
The study, recently published in The EMBO J, shows that the body uses this method to build up long-term immunity to previous infections. This “immunological memory” allows the body to fight off future infections, such as colds and flu, more efficiently. This is only possible with the gene regulatory elements.
Just one cycle of activated T cells, which are part of the immune system, gives the cells an imprint of the chromosomes. The body is able to switch on these imprints when an infection reactivates the immune systems.
The scientists theorize that the gene imprint activation is what happens when the body fights a recurring illness, like a cold or the influenza; the cells are not left “switched on,” but they remain partially active after the first infection.
"The initial immune response switches on certain regions within chromosomes of previously inactive T cells to leave them in a more open structure so that they can then sit poised, ready to respond much faster when activated again in the future,” study leader Peter Cockerill said.