Rockefeller researchers inject cells, boost immune system in humans

Findings take important first step toward vaccines for cancer, viruses

A single injection of specialized immune system cells -- removed from the bloodstream and exposed to a foreign substance -- can trigger a potent immune response in humans that lasts for months, Rockefeller University researchers report. The experiment provides the first conclusive evidence that one dose of these cells, called dendritic cells, can prompt a strong immune response, and it suggests new ways of improving vaccines and protecting against cancer.

"We've shown for the first time that a single injection of mature dendritic cells can induce a significant level of immunity in people," says Rockefeller's Nina Bhardwaj, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor for clinical investigation and senior author of the study. "The results indicate that this method could be a powerful new way to fight cancers and chronic infections like HIV." Bhardwaj, along with lead author Madhav Dhodapkar, M.D., a Rockefeller clinical scholar and assistant professor, and nine other colleagues reported the results of the experiment in the July 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Ralph Steinman, M.D., another co-author and head of Rockefeller's Laboratory of Immunology and Cellular Physiology, which gave birth to much research on dendritic cells, says the new technique will probably first be used to treat people with advanced cancers and those who have gotten rid of the disease but are vulnerable to a recurrence. The other main targets will be chronic viral infections such as HIV, hepatitis, Epstein-Barr virus and herpes.

Dendritic cells have become the subject of increased interest by immunologists. Located in most tissues, dendritic cells are responsible for signaling the presence of an intruder to the body's T cells, which play the primary role in the immune response against invading microbes. Dendritic cells capture antigens from the foreign substance and present them to t

Contact: Joseph Bonner
Rockefeller University

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