Immune cells versus persistent viruses: with a little help from my friends
Viruses such as HIV or the pathogen that causes hepatitis C can overwhelm the immune system. One approach to developing vaccines for these chronic infections has until now been aimed exclusively at what are known as the memory B cells, a specific type of immune cells. Researchers at the University of Basel now report that these cells need the help of other memory cells to effectively defend the body against chronic viruses. This is an important finding in vaccine design.
09 November 2021
An arsenal of immune cells defends the body against pathogens. During a viral infection, B cells produce antibodies that match the virus and deactivate it. Some of these B cells die off following infection or vaccination. However, some B cells remain in the body as memory cells in order to produce the right antibodies more quickly if a new infection with the same pathogen occurs. Vaccines aim, among other things, to trigger the development of these memory B cells.
However, viruses such as HIV or hepatitis C virus overpower the memory B cells’ defenses – an obstacle in the development of efficient vaccines. In order to overcome this barrier, the research team led by Dr. Daniel Pinschewer from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel is investigating the interplay between immune cells in chronic viral infections.