Map of immune system connections paves the way for new therapies

Previously, the medical and scientific communities had only an incomplete map of these receptor connections between all types of immune cells in the body.

An international scientific team has created a full 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 UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, ETH Zurich, and collaborators show in this map, the first of its kind, they say, how immune cells connect and communicate of the whole body.

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

This offers Answers to old questions about current immunotherapies which are already used to treat patients, explains a statement from Wellcome Sanger, noting that in the future this public and detailed map of the immune system could also be vital for identifying new therapies.

human body system

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 trigger 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 one incomplete map of these connections of receptors between all types of immune cells in the body, according to the same sources.

Gain an in-depth understanding of the interactions between immune cells and how does this communication fit into the body as a whole it is essential to develop treatments that strengthen the immune system to fight the disease, called immunotherapies.

Response to studies

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 they only work on a subset of patients, and to propose new targets for designing future immunotherapies that can be extended to other patients.

You also need to understand the cell-to-cell signals that occur in the immune system to prevent and treat autoimmune diseases, which occur when the body confuses internal signals and attacks itself.

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

They then used extensive computer and mathematical analysis to refine the map. Its creation took years of technological advancements to solve a problem of this magnitude.

Each immune cell can have hundreds of surface proteins and different receptors, and the interactions involving these proteins are often so transient that specialized methods have had to be developed to help assemble an accurate map.

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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 we hope researchers around the world will use it to help develop new therapies that work with the body’s defense mechanisms.

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