Durable immune cells may protect for years

Yale researchers have discovered a population of cells that may help explain how the human immune system can provide protection against pathogens for decades after a person is first exposed.

The cells, a subset of tissue-resident memory T (Trm) cells, are found throughout the body—including in the blood, bone marrow, gut, and skin—rather than just the lymphatic system where many immune cells reside.

A team led by Madhav Dhodapkar, M.B.B.S., professor of medicine (hematology) and of immunobiology, found that some Trm cells in all these tissues remain in a static resting state, the G0 phase of the cell cycle, where they are neither dividing nor preparing to divide.

This quiescent cell population, the researchers reported in their Sept. 12 Journal of Clinical Investigation paper, has the ability to be mobilized into circulation when needed.

The new cells, because they are so long lasting and tend to localize in tissues, may be an attractive candidate for use in immune-based therapies such as those designed to shrink tumors, they suggested.


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