Organizing Immune Cells: Therapeutics Down the Line
, scientists revealed a previously unappreciated complexity of TRM cell biology in the gut, which may inspire a new generation of precision therapeutics against infection, cancer, and auto-immune disease.
After experiencing an infection, the immune system leaves behind memory T cells, which maintain a long-lasting molecular memory of the pathogen and are ready to sound the alarm if it ever returns.
While some memory T cells are designed to circulate through the bloodstream and provide whole-body protection, others reside in specific organs and are specialized to fight the pathogens that target that part of the body.
These TRM cells can provide life-long immunity at the target tissue, but can also contribute to autoimmune diseases if overactivated.
Most of our vaccines are designed to provide systemic immunity, but we may be able to get even better protection by instead focusing on boosting the tissue-specific cells that encounter the pathogen first.
Thus, the goal is to develop therapeutics that could boost the formation and maintenance of TRM cells, or in the case of autoimmune disease, remove the immune cells by disrupting these same pathways.
The issue is, scientists still have a lot to learn about what helps TRM cells form and survive, and these rules may be quite different in each tissue type.
Tissue-Specific Immunity for Changing the World
To explore this, the researchers performed a series of experiments to characterize TRM cells in mice from four different compartments of the gut.
The experiments revealed that the same type of immune cells in each part of the gut appeared to be very different in their molecular makeup, function, and chemical signals they depend on.
Future research will continue to define the rules of TRM cell formation and maintenance in other tissues and explore what drives their specificity.
By knowing what each tissue type needs to support the formation and maintenance of TRM cells, we can provide the most efficient immune defenses against disease.
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