A way has been discovered by researchers that would manipulate the immune system to enhance its power and protect the body from consecutive viral attacks.
The study, led by Sam Basta, Queen's professor of Microbiology and Immunology, suggests that scientists can enhance the body's resistance and fend off successive viral infections by taking components of the virus and indirectly activating specific populations of killer T cells - the body's virus-killing cells.
The virus components are introduced through a process known as "cross priming" whereby virus molecules are engulfed by immune cells to activate killer T cells.
The findings might point the way towards developing new and more effective vaccines against diseases like influenza or HIV and enhance new developments in immunology.
"With this mechanism in mind, we can develop better tools to make more successful and effective vaccines," said Basta.
The researchers hope to build on their findings by next studying which immune cells do a better job of protecting the body while using this mechanism.
"The answer to this question is like having the Holy Grail of immunotherapy and vaccine design within our grasp," says Dr. Basta.
The study is published in Viral Immunology.