The study identifying a molecular switch that impacts immune responses to viral infections, and whether or not protective antibodies are producing. Discovery that the immune system protects against different viruses via distinct pathways. Their findings could lead to better strategies to develop vaccines for previously hard-to-prevent viruses.
Antibodies are an essential component of long lived immunity to viruses, and this discovery could underpin the development of better vaccines to prevent viral diseases. Immune T cells are critical for coordinating specific immune responses, recruiting other cells and directing how we respond to different microbes such as bacteria, fungi or viruses.
Antibodies are long-living proteins; that can be producing following an infection. They specifically bind to other proteins such as those on a microbe’s surface and are important for protecting us against repeat infections by the same microbe. Vaccines work by stimulating the production of antibodies that are specific to an infectious disease, preventing the infection from establishing.
Impact of immune responses
The level of T-bet in T cells is influencing by factors such as how a virus enters the body; and how much inflammation it triggers in its early stages. This in turn influences the immune response to the virus. But the study comparing the role of the T-bet switch in immune responses to two viruses; influenza and LCMV, a virus that can cause meningitis.
These findings reconcile a controversy in the field about how the immune system can distinguish between different viral infections; and respond in distinct ways. Discovering that T-bet was an essential switch that enabled T cells to stimulate antibody production in response to viral infections. The level of T-bet in T cells is influencing by factors such as how a virus enters the body; and how much inflammation it triggers in its early stages.
The protective antibodies
These viruses are thought to activate similar immune cells; yet we demonstrated specific changes between the responses could lead to very different amounts of protective antibodies. We showed that T-bet was critical for scaling; how much antibody production occurred in response to a viral infection. The findings could underpin the development of more effective vaccines against viruses.
But most current vaccines to infectious diseases rely on robust and long-lived antibody production. If we can understand the precise triggering controlling how much antibody is producing in response to an infection; we should be able to develop vaccines that act similarly to stimulate protective antibody production.