New cell type boosts immunity to infectionPublished On: Wed, Nov 30th, 2011 | Immunology | By BioNews
A new type of cell actually boosts the body’s ability to fight off infections and threatening diseases, reveals a study.
It recognises lipid antigens, or foreign molecules, which sit on infectious bacteria which invade the body. Once recognising the lipids, the cell, called Natural killer T follicular helper (NKT), generates antibody responses in B cells.
B cells are the body’s natural defence against invasion by viruses and bacteria, the journal Nature Immunology and Immunity reported.
Carola Vinuesa, researcher at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, who led the study, said the cell represents a non-chemical based and natural way for the human body to fight off bacteria and infection.
Natural killer T cells, unlike other T cells, recognise molecules known as lipids instead of just recognising proteins expressed by infectious bacteria, a university statement said.
“These types of bacteria can cause life-threatening infections, including meningitis and pneumonia. NKT cells don’t just recognise lipids – they can be naturally activated by them,” said Vinuesa.
“Not surprisingly, NKT cells have been shown to play important roles in combating infection and in other immune processes, including allergy, cancer and auto-immunity,” she said.
“The discovery of the NKTfh will help us understand how to elicit immune protection against lipid-containing microbes and which natural antibody responses can best fight each type of infection,” she added.