When the immune system encounters an unfamiliar pathogen, such as a virus, it mounts a strong initial response aimed at eliminating the invader from the body. This acute initial response consists of a rapid proliferation of certain types of immune system cells, plasma cells, which produce antibodies to destroy the virus.
Following this initial response, the immune system produces smaller numbers of plasma cells and memory B-cells that remain in the body long after the infection is cleared. These long-lived cells are responsible for "remembering" that particular virus and quickly rousing the immune system should it reappear. They are crucial to long-term immunity, and, therefore, to the success of a vaccine; a vaccine that fails to generate long-term immune memory does not protect against infection.
People with SAP mutations often present with immunological abnormalities and chronic infections. Many of the deaths among people with X-linked lymphoproliferative disease result from infection with Epstein-Barr virus. The VRC study suggests that this may be due to the inability of SAP-negative individuals to sustain long-term immunity against Epstein-Barr virus.
Ahmed's research at Emory focuses on identifying ways to manipulate specific components of the immune system. The goal is to learn how to turn on or off certain functions as needed, to combat cancerous tumors or prevent rejection of a transplanted organ, for instance, while maintaining the protective benefits of the immune system. Current therapies generally involve the wholesale destruction of the immun
Contact: Holly Korschun
Emory University Health Sciences Center