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Immunology Update - July 2017

Welcome to the next installment of our regular update where we report on research from the world of immunology, highlighting work from BSI members that has hit the headlines over the past few weeks.

Secrets of sunlight’s effect on eczema uncovered

While it has been known for some time that exposure to sunlight can help alleviate the symptoms of eczema, the molecular mechanisms behind this reaction have been unclear. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, writing in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, have now made an important discovery in this area, paving the way for the development of new therapies to mimic the effects of sunlight on eczema.

The team, led by BSI member Dr Anne Astier from the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, found that exposing the skin of healthy volunteers to UV light triggered the release of nitric oxide into the bloodstream. Further lab tests showed that nitric oxide acts on regulatory T cells, whose role is to reduce inflammation levels. Furthermore, the researchers found that people with eczema had higher levels of regulatory T cells in their blood following light therapy, and that these levels were directly correlated with disease improvement.

Read the full press release here

Read the full article: Yu et al. 2017 Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology DOI:

Synthetic immunoglobulins edge one step closer

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy is the use of a mixture of antibodies (or immunoglobulins) to treat a variety of health conditions, including primary immunodeficiency, Guillain-Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy. Demand for this therapy has risen substantially over the past few years and this, combined with the dependence on human donors and the need for large treatment doses, has led to a supply shortage. BSI member Professor Richard Pleass, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, is leading a team who are investigating the development of synthetic alternatives to IVIgs.

Writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the team describe how a sugar called sialic acid may be critical to improving the ability of these synthetic structures to bind to receptors on human cells. “One of the major problems with IVIG is that a patient requires a huge dose for the treatment to be effective, which can lead to adverse events due to excessive protein loading,” explains Professor Pleass. “We have found that by adding sugars to the synthetic compound and moving their position within it, we can make up to 80% of this synthetic product active, which means that only a fraction would be needed for effective treatment, reducing the risk of adverse effects and significantly lowering the cost of treatment.”

The team now plan to run a clinical trial to see if these synthetic replacements are better than IVIg at protecting the central nervous system from disease. 

Read the full press release here

Read the full article: Blundell et al. 2017 Journal of Biological Chemistry doi: 10.1074/jbc.M117.795047

Immune cells against multiple foot-and-mouth disease virus strains discovered

Foot and mouth is a contagious viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic cattle. There are seven serotypes of the foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), which currently each require a separate vaccine. Researchers from The Pirbright Institute are trying to identify similarities between these different serotypes with a view to developing a vaccine that is effective against multiple strains.

Writing in the Journal of Virology, the team describe the outcome of an experiment where cattle were vaccinated with four different inactivated FMDV serotypes at 21 day intervals. They found that this led to a B cell response where the antibodies produced successfully bound to proteins (or epitopes) present on all four vaccinated serotypes.    

Dr Bryan Charleston, Director of The Pirbright Institute, who led the research, said, “Our work provides evidence that different serotypes have common epitopes that can be targeted to induce an immune response against many serotypes simultaneously.

“These results clearly illustrate the potential for developing a vaccine regime that could improve the breadth of protection against FMD. The data generated from this study will enable us to further investigate ways of improving vaccination techniques.”

Read the full press release here

Read the full article: Grant et al. 2017 Journal of Virology doi:10.1128/JVI.02157-16