Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center suggest that fractals, self-similar and repeating patterns found in nature, can help scientists understand the organization of immune system and can be used in improving stem cell transplant outcomes in leukemia patients by predicting the probability of transplant complications.
Recently published in the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, the study led by Amir Toor, M.D., found a fractal pattern in the T cell repertoire of 10 unrelated stem cell transplant donors and recipients. T cells are a family of immune system cells that keep the body healthy by identifying and launching attacks against pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or cancer. T cells have small receptors that recognize antigens, which are proteins on the surface of foreign cells. Once T cells encounter a foreign cell, the antigen fits into the T cell's receptor like a key in a lock and the T cell's deadly arsenal is unleashed on the threat. Once activated, T cells divide into many clones with receptors designed to recognize and guard against that specific pathogen. Over the course of a person's life, he will develop millions of these clonal families, which make up his T cell repertoire and protect him against the many threats that exist in his unique environment.