A team of researchers led by Shih-Chin Cheng, recently published proof for the controversial hypothesis of trained immunity in Science Magazine. The theory that the aspecific immune system can be influenced by external factors is still a hot item in the field of immunology. The researchers demonstrated the ability of the aspecific immune system to adapt through epigenetic changes in a glucose metabolism-regulating gene.
Traditionally, a difference is being made between aspecific and innate immunity. The latter is based on the occurring of immunity because of earlier contact with a pathogen. It has been thought that the aspecific immune system was a general mechanism, designed to keep pathogens out of the human body. However, earlier research points to immunological memory in the aspecific system: the so-called trained immunity.
Thanks to Shih-Chin Cheng and his colleagues, the working mechanism of trained immunity is partly clarified. Because of earlier research and the characterisation of epigenetic profiles, these scientists postulated that a glucose metabolism-regulating transcription factor might be involved. This hypothesis was tested in two groups of mice: one in which the gene for the transcription factor was deleted, and a comparative group that was genetically normal. All mice received a compound that induced a trained immune response. Subsequently, they were administered a pathogen. Normal mice were protected by the response of their aspecific immune system, in contrast to the mice that did not possess the transcription factor.
The fact that glucose metabolism seems to play a role in the aspecific immune response, certainly opens doors. When the mechanism of trained immunity is unraveled in humans, this knowledge could help in modulating the personal immune respons by switching effector genes on and off. Eventually, even efficacy of vaccines could be enhanced.
Sources: Science, Medical News Today.
MedZine writes twice per week about controversial science.