The protein signals responsible for keeping the memory of viral infections alive have been discovered by scientists at the Wistar Institute.
Their result may help scientists in creating better, more effective vaccines.
"We are particularly interested in how our bodies generate antibodies against viruses and how we maintain anti-viral antibody secreting cells as a hedge against future infection from the same virus," said Jan Erikson, Ph.D., senior author of the study, professor in Wistar's Immunology Program.
"Our study highlights how protein signals sustain the cells that make antibodies against viruses in perpetuity, which we believe is crucial knowledge for the development of vaccines for lasting protection against the flu, for example," he stated.
Our immune system produces a broad array of antibodies, but during an infection with a virus, for example, the immune system allows the predominant production of antibodies that are directed against the virus. The cells making these particular antibodies are then selected for preservation.
According to Erikson and her colleagues, this act of preservation requires signals, provided by proteins called BLyS and APRIL.
The researchers found that neutralizing BLyS and APRIL reduced the numbers of anti-viral ASCs found in the lungs and bone marrow.
BLyS and APRIL bind to another protein called TACI, a receptor found on the surface of ASCs, which the researchers see as an important translator for marking the ASCs that will become long-lived.
The study was presented in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.