How Does the Immune System Remember

Posted on December 10, 2006  Comments (0)

Scientists find key to immune system’s ability to remember

The protein, which scientists call Lck, is essential for immune system T cells – white blood cells that attack virus-infected cells, foreign cells and cancer cells… Lck is important in helping “naive” T cells – those cells that have never been exposed to a particular pathogen – capture the receptor template of the invading agent and store it for future reference… Following infection or vaccination, Lck initiates a biochemical chain of events that vastly increases the number of T cells that march off to combat the invader.

After the infection subsides, the number of T cells marshaled to fight that agent decreases dramatically. But a smaller subset, known as “memory” cells, retains the imprint of its previous encounter should the pathogen make a return appearance. According to the study, while Lck primes naive cells to fight a pathogen, it is not required by memory cells, which initiate the fast and furious response when that same pathogen comes calling again years later. Unlike naive T cells, which are confined to the lymphatic system, memory T cells are found everywhere in the body, enabling them to sense and react more quickly when an infectious agent is reencountered.

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