Australian scientists have made a breakthrough discovery in the field of immunology as they can now explain how an important class of immune cells called T follicular helper cells is produced in the body.
T follicular helper cells have a significant function in the human body - they help B cells, which are a type of white blood cells - to make long-lived high-potency antibodies.
When our body gets infected or vaccinated, B cells move to the antibody-producing hot spots called germinal centres in the lymph nodes. At the germinal centres, T follicular helper cells communicate with B cells and help them produce effective antigen-specific antibodies.
The antigen-specific antibodies fight off current infection and create memory B cells that will instantly know if the same infection occurs in the future.
T follicular helper cells were first discovered nearly a decado ago and scientists have been trying to understand how they are produced and function.
The findings of the study of Drs Elissa Deenick, Stuart Tangye and Robert Brink from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research have finally shed a light into parts of the immunology dilemma.
Dr Deenick says without T follicular helper cells, there won't be any germinal centres, no high affinity antibodies and thus no memory cells.
T follicular helper cells are a specialized type of T cells - another type of immune cells. Ordinary T cells must produce certain proteins and cell surface receptors to become T follicular helper cells that will migrate to germinal centres - where ordinary T cells are excluded.
Originally, the understanding has been that T cells become activated on immune cells known as dendritic cells that deliver antigent, then migrate to germinal centres where B cells deliver a distinct chemical signal, allowing them to become T follicular helper cells.
However, the recent findings have proven that B cells do not seny any unique signal to the T cells to help them become T follicular helper cells. The dendritic cells on the other hand, can provide the T cells all the signal they need to make the change.
The significant thing, according to the scientists, is that an antigen needs to be given to a T cell and that can come from a dendritic cell, a B cell or any other source.
T folliculare helper cell, along with its surface molecules and the chemical signals it secretes has very special relationship with B cells.The findings of this study, according to the scientists are pivotal to the development of drug and vaccine in the future.
To develop the perfect vaccines, it is crucial for clear understanding of the workings of the antibodies. Particularly in the case of autoimmune diseases - where the body attacks itself - methods to subdue the antibodies that cause the reaction must be found.