Antibody-producing cells discovered in spleen

PTI| Updated: Feb 24, 2014, 19:39 PM IST
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London: Researchers have discovered a type of cells in human spleen that are essential for the production of antibodies, paving way for development of new vaccines to fight meningitis and pneumonia.

Innate lymphoid cells were recently described by the scientific community and represent the first line of immunological defence on our body surfaces, which are constantly exposed to bacteria, such as the intestine or skin.

Now, for the first time their presence and function in human spleen has been described, said Dr Giuliana Magri, member of the research group of B Cell Biology at IMIM (Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mediques) in Barcelona, and first author in the paper.

"We have discovered how these cells regulate the innate immune response of a subset of splenic B lymphocytes that are responsible to fight against encapsulated bacteria, causative agents of meningitis or pneumonia," said Magri.

"The current available vaccines against encapsulated bacteria confer only a limited protection in immunodeficient patients, and are too expensive to be implemented in developing countries.

"At the same time, we lack information on the underlying mechanisms that regulate B lymphocytes, which has been a major hurdle in the development of novel vaccine strategies," said Dr Andrea Cerutti, ICREA (Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats) research professor and leader in the field of B lymphocyte biology.

"This makes the current discovery key in the design of novel more efficient and well-oriented therapies," Cerutti said.

The research involved in vitro studies with isolated cells from human spleen samples and in vivo studies performed with different mice models.

The work explored the function of the innate lymphoid cells in homeostasis, in short, in the absence of any illness, opening the door in the future to study the possible implication of innate lymphoid cells in diverse pathological processes both at the mucosal and systemic level, as well as deepening the understanding of autoimmune and immunodeficient diseases.

The study was published in the journal Nature Immunology.