New cell discovery could lead to more effective vaccines

Scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hill Institute in Australia have identified how a protein found on the surface of immune cells recognizes dangerous trauma and damage that could denote infection.

The cells, known as dendritic cells, are necessary for alerting the body to the presence of foreign invaders like parasites, bacteria, viruses, tumors and other dead or damaged cells. Also known as antigen-presenting cells, the cells digest the molecules and present them to other immune cells for the purpose of recognition to launch an immune response, the Hindu reports.

The study, which was published in the journal Immunity, found that the immune system created an intelligent way of detecting dead and damaged cells in an effort to promote a positive immune response. The finding may lead to the development of new vaccines or to an increase in the efficacy of vaccines for diseases without strong preventive options, such as HIV and malaria.

"There is also the possibility that the system could be used to develop therapeutic vaccines for treating diseases, such as some forms of cancer, as well as for preventing them," Mireille Lahoud, one of the leaders of the study, said, according to the Hindu.

The research was conducted by multiple scientists in areas including immunology, protein chemistry and structural biology. The other lead researchers on the project were Ken Shortman, Peter Czabotar and Jian-Guo Zhang.