Posted on May 15, 2018, 9 p.m.
A novel unconventional type of immune cell capable of fighting viral infections has been identified by researchers at the University of Birmingham in a collaborative study with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology Russia, and Academic Medical Center Netherlands, as published in Nature Communications.
Specifically the work has defined a subset of novel unconventional V-delta lymphocytes, a type of Gamma Delta T cells, which are an ancient class of immune cells that has been poorly understood; establishing that unconventional V-delta lymphocytes are present at birth and persists in low levels into adulthood, and that they can increase in numbers drastically during infections.
How this subtype of T cell responded to viral infection of cytomegalovirus was examined by the researchers, and it was found that when unconventional V-delta lymphocytes detect signs of the virus they substantially increased in numbers to aggressively go in for the kill.
Unconventional V-delta lymphocytes can adapt to some changes thrown at them, such as upon detection of viral infection they change from harmless precursors into ruthless killers, where they can then access tissue where they detect and go in for the kill to destroy virally infected target cells.
This work built upon previous work from the same group which was published in Trends in Immunology that also suggested gamma delta T cells which control the immune system can adapt in response to infectious challenges.
The team is working to gain better understandings of the scenarios when these unconventional T cells become killer, and trying to develop ways in which to harness the ruthless defenders to use in the advancement of treatments to fight off viral infections. It is thought that these unconventional V-delta lymphocytes will contribute to defense against viral infections in the liver, which is an important site exposed to numerous potentially dangerous infectious diseases, and be of great importance to other aspects of the immune system when not working at full strength such as newborns and transplant patients, in which both scenarios boosting activity of these unconventional V-delta lymphocytes could prove to be very beneficial.
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