Leprosy microbes lead scientists to immune discovery

July 31, 2011

Thanks to the opportunity that human leprosy infections provide for study of human immune responses, scientists have discovered how the body’s early warning system prompts a rapid immune response by two separate armies of defensive cells.

The researchers isolated immune cells in blood samples from healthy people and exposed the cells to a component of mycobacteria. They noted that the large white blood cells known as monocytes rapidly differentiated into the two distinct cell types, macrophages, which seek out and engulf the infectious bugs, and dendritic, or “antigen-presenting” cells, which seize distinctive pieces of the enemy and use them to “educate” and stir up a second immune response, known as “adaptive” immunity.

Until now, laboratory dish experiments had not revealed that the instantaneous or “innate” immune reaction, discovered less than 10 years ago, is mounted by two differently-specialized cells.

To read more about this discovery see Leprosy microbes lead scientists to immune discovery

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