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Immune cells gain potency soon after birth
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Immune cells that form in the developing fetus expand and mature rapidly after birth, providing a first line of defence against infections. The findings challenge the conventional wisdom that early-life immune responses are fairly weak and point to microbe exposure shaping the immune repertoire of newborns.
A team from the University of Cape Town and elsewhere studied a group of immune cells known as gamma delta T cells that can recognize a broad range of foreign substances.
They found that, within 10 weeks of birth, these T cells from healthy infants were already expanding and differentiating into potent immune attack-dogs, with similar functions to those of immune cells from adults.
Vaccination with the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin jab for tuberculosis — a potent stimulator of gamma delta T cells — did not alter the T-cell response observed in newborns, suggesting that environmental cues are the main drivers of immune cell adaptation in early life.
- PNAS 117, 18638–18648 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1922595117
|University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa||0.50|
|UCT South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), South Africa||0.25|
|Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium||0.25|