A new study published by University of Utah researchers is paving the way for novel approaches related to how people are immunized to protect them from diseases.
Utah researchers Luke R. Donius, Jennifer M. Handy, Janis J. Weis and John H. Weis released the findings of their study recently in The Journal of Immunology.
The study, formally titled, "Optimal Germinal Center B Cell Activation and T-Dependent Antibody Responses Require Expression of the Mouse Complement Receptor Cr1" used a mouse model system to examine receptors on a select set of cells that centralize antigens in sites of high immune activity, which are substances that cause a person's immune system to produce antibodies.
Among their discoveries was a finding that cells that are central to organizing the centers for B cells (which are antibody-producing cells) express a receptor called Cr1 when undergoing processes to make antibodies.
"[The receptor] wasn't thought to be expressed at as high of a level as we found," said Donius a Ph.D. student studying microbiology and immunology.
Researchers made a mouse that was missing the receptor that holds the antigens, and studied how the mouse reacted to different antigens without the receptor in its body. Without the receptor these mice failed to generate large numbers of the B cells that produce the most protective types of immunity. This finding suggests that targeting vaccines to this receptor may be an effective means by which to enhance the number of these cells and generate more protective immunity.
On a broader level, researchers' discoveries with cell proteins may enable them to find new ways for vaccinating people, said John Weis, Ph.D., a professor of pathology at the University of Utah.
"I think what is really important about the study is that we need to have new strategies to make vaccines for diseases like HIV and malaria," Weis said. "We need new ways of approaching how to immunize people so they can be protected from diseases. Just giving a protein alone is not doing the trick. We've got to do something else," he said.
"The real significant work of this study is that this gives us a new way of thinking about how we can design vaccines that perhaps are more efficient and potentially may be able to protect people from infections."