Immunology researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered how two biochemical signals play unique roles in promoting the development of a group of immune cells employed as tactical assassins. In their initial response, these immune cells, known as cytotoxic T lymphocytes, or CTLs, kill cells infected with pathogens. They also provide long-term protection against pathogens by “remembering” which proteins the pathogen makes. Targeting the ability of these CTLs to remember the pathogen is one way vaccines protect against infection.
The two molecules involved, IL-12 and interferon alpha, are involved in a wide range of immune responses. Delineating their effects, not only on CTLs and memory cells but also other immune cell types, will help create better vaccines.
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