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Researchers add crucial information on how the body's T cells react to parasitic diseases

In the 1980s, the phrase "T cell count" burst into the world's medical vocabulary as thousands and then millions of patients died of AIDS. The public began to understand the crucial importance of T cells--cellular Pac-Men that roam the bloodstream gobbling up infection and guarding against future attacks.

While scientists understood how T cells worked in certain kinds of diseases, one area has remained murky: disorders caused by protozoan parasites. Now, because of a study just published and led by scientists at the University of Georgia, researchers are closer than ever to understanding how T cells respond to parasitic diseases that kill millions each year.

"We have needed to really know what happens in these infections," said Rick Tarleton, research professor of cellular biology and a faculty member in UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (CTEGD). "What is the body's response? This study is the first to show that one parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas Disease, elicits a T cell response focused on a few peptides, despite having some 12,000 genes capable of generating hundreds of thousands of potential targets for T cells."

The study was just published in the online journal PLOS Pathogens, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science. Other authors of the paper include: Diana Martin, the lead author and postdoctoral fellow at UGA; former UGA undergraduates Melissa Cabinian and Matthew Crim; computational biologist Brent Weatherly of the CTEGD; former UGA postdoctoral fellow Susan Sullivan; doctoral students Matt Collins, Charles Rosenberg and Sarah Craven; Alessandro Sette of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in San Diego, Ca.; and Susana Laucella and Miriam Postan of the Nacional de Laboratorios e Institutos de Salud in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Chagas Disease is a tropical parasitic disease that sickens as many as 18 million people a year, m
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Contact: Kim Carlyle
kcarlyle@uga.edu
706-542-8083
University of Georgia
28-Aug-2006


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