Map of immune system connections paves the way for new therapies

An international scientific team has created a comprehensive map of the network of connections that make up the human immune systemwhich could lead to new immunotherapies to treat cancer, infectious diseases and other conditions in which the immune response plays a role.

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute of UKfrom the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich and his collaborators show in this map, the first of its kind, they say, how immune cells throughout the body connect and communicate.

The research, details of which are published in the journal Nature, includes the discovery of many previously unknown interactions which, taken together, shed light on the organization of the body’s immune defences.

This offers answers to long-standing questions about current immunotherapies already being used to treat patients, says a statement from Wellcome Sanger, noting that this detailed public map of the immune system could also be vital for identifying new therapies in the future. .

The immune system is made up of specialized cellssome of which travel individually through the body to look for signs of injury or disease.

Once they detect a threat, they must communicate the message to other cells to mount an effective immune response. One of the ways this cell-to-cell signaling happens is through cell surface proteins that bind to corresponding “receptor” proteins on the surface of other cells.

Until now, the medical and scientific communities had only an incomplete map of these receptor connections between all types of immune cells of the organization, according to the same sources.

A thorough understanding of immune cell interactions and how this communication integrates throughout the body is essential for develop treatments that improve the immune system to fight disease, known as immunotherapies.

These have already shown that they have a great potential in certain diseasesespecially in the case of certain cancers, but they only work well in certain groups of patients and for certain conditions.

Knowing the map of immune receptor connections could help explain why immunotherapies sometimes only work on a subset of patientsand to propose new targets for designing future immunotherapies that can be extended to other patients.

It is also necessary to understand the cell-to-cell signals that occur in the immune system to prevent and treat autoimmune diseaseswhich occur when the body confuses internal signals and attacks itself.

To design this atlas, researchers isolated and studied an almost complete set of surface proteins that physically bind to immune cells.

Then they used a lot of computer and mathematical analyzes to plot the map. Its creation took years of technological advances to solve a problem of this magnitude.

Each immune cell may have hundreds of different surface proteins and receptors, and interactions involving these proteins are often so transient that it has been need to invent specialized methods so that an accurate map can be established.

In summary, Wellcome Sanger’s Jarrod Shilts: “Isolating and meticulously analyzing each immune cell and its interactions with others has provided us with the first map of conversations between all immune cells in the body.

“This is a big step in understanding the inner workings of the immune system and hopefully researchers around the world are using it to develop new therapies that work with the body’s defense mechanisms.

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