Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Repelling Repeat Offenders

Memory T cells in the lungs can be reactivated in the absence of dendritic cells – the cell type usually assumed to be necessary

30 September 2020

Repelling Repeat Offenders

Your immune system might be caught off-guard by the first sucker-punch from a bacteria or virus, but it takes steps to be better prepared for round two. It produces killer T cells to attack infected cells then remain as ‘memory cells’ to ward off future re-infection. In some areas of the body, these lingering guardians are reactivated by messengers called dendritic cells, but it wasn’t clear if these are involved when the T cells are in key organs like the lungs – a primary entry point for many infections. A new study examined T cell (blue) reactivation in the lungs of mice (lung tissue in green) with and without functioning dendritic cells (red), and found they were unexpectedly easily reactivated by other messengers, not just dendritic cells. Creating this particularly versatile immunity might be a key goal for new vaccine development, particularly in the war against COVID-19.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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