Scientists have long sought to better understand the human body’s immune responses that occur in various diseases, including cancer and inflammatory diseases.
In a recent study at the University of Missouri, Emma Teixeiro, associate professor at the MU School of Medicine, and her team analyzed how immunological memory — the memory retained by the body’s immune system after an infection or vaccination, is used to protect itself protects against reinfection – – is generated and maintained, and the role that inflammation plays in shaping this immunological memory.
“Our immune system protects us from disease, but it’s a very complicated system with a lot of interactions, and when things get dysregulated, it can actually play a role in the development of disease,” said Teixeiro, who works at the NextGen Precision Health Institute campus the mu. “Our research is therefore focused on better understanding how these immune responses can be generated and controlled, specifically by looking at the crucial role that T cells play as T cells protect the body from and potentially play a role in infection in the fight against cancer.”
Using a mouse model, the researchers created different strains of pathogenic bacteria that increased levels of inflammation by stimulating interferon genes – or STING – proteins within T cells. While many scientists assumed that this increase in inflammation would lead to a stronger immune response and thus a stronger immunological memory, Teixeiro and her team found the opposite: the immunological memory was reduced.
“Some scientists in the field believe that STING activation could aim to improve cancer vaccines or immunotherapies. Therefore, it is crucial to gain a basic understanding of all interaction mechanisms involved in order to reduce the likelihood of unintended consequences or harmful side effects,” said Teixeiro. “We want to better understand how immunological memory is regulated, which has implications for potential vaccines or immunotherapies that trigger T cells in a way that hopefully boosts long-term memory so our bodies are protected from disease over time.”
Although her research is fundamental in nature, Teixeiro’s findings have the potential to contribute to the development of more effective treatments to help patients suffering from cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), STING-associated vasculopathy of infancy-onset (SAVI), and asthma other chronic inflammatory syndromes.
“The pursuit of knowledge drives my curiosity as a scientist,” Teixeiro said. “Although more questions remain to be answered, this research is a small step in the right direction and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“STING controls T-cell memory fitness during infection through T-cell intrinsic and indoleamine-pyrrole-2,3-dioxygenase (IDO)-dependent mechanisms” was recently published in PNAS. Study co-authors include Michael Quaney, Curtis Pritzl, Rebecca Newth, Karin Knudson, Vikas Saxena, Caitlyn Guldenpfennig, Diana Gil, Chris Rae, Peter Lauer, Mark Daniels and Dezzarae Luera.