From The Scientist :
In humans, the immune system has two arms: innate and adaptive. The traditional view is that innate immunity is broad-acting and non-specific, while adaptive immunity establishes memories for very specific pathogens, explained Christine Stabell Benn, a professor of global health at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen who also did not participate in the studies. “So, if you give a vaccine against measles you induce protective immunity against measles and nothing else.” But, she added, “what we have seen in our epidemiological studies is that vaccines [also] have non-specific effects.” The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, for example, confers protection against a variety of infections with other microorganisms—and trained macrophages appear to be responsible. The new papers, said Stabell Benn, “are now providing the molecular mechanisms behind these epidemiological observations.”
Both training and tolerance induction in macrophages have a number of clinical implications, explained Netea. For example, too much tolerance can cause immunoparalysis—a life-threatening complication of sepsis, he said. Such patients could be helped, added Stunnenberg, “if we could turn around a paralyzed cell and activate it.” But training “can probably also in some situations be detrimental to the host,” said Stabell Benn, by potentially causing excessive inflammation, for example. Having the epigenomic information about these cells, she added, is therefore important “in the first place, to understand what is going on, and in the second place, because it offers the potential of both down-regulating over-energetic cells but also revitalizing those that have been paralyzed.”
It’s not Darwin’s world any more, but don’t expect tenured profs to admit that.
Follow UD News at Twitter!