In a new study, researchers have successfully created the first comprehensive map (Figure 1) of the human immune system, illustrating all connections in full and describing the communication between immune cells and how we can use this as a tool to investigate disease and develop new therapeutics. showing how immune cells communicate with each other and ways to modulate these pathways in disease.
The immune system comprises several different types of cell which each have a unique function. Some of these cells localise to the site of injury or infection and once detected, essential messages are communicated to other cells of the body in order to induce an efficient immune response. This cell-to-cell signalling can be facilitated through surface receptors which are proteins on the surfaces of cells that bind to other proteins. Understanding how cells communicate with each other and when, is essential for developing new treatments and improving existing ones such as immunotherapies, to enhance the immune response against disease.
Importantly, this study also provides insight into the mechanisms that may underlie autoimmune conditions and how we may go about treating them in a more efficient way.
In short, this study has provided a unique and powerful tools for researchers and clinicians to use to fight disease, autoimmune disorders, develop novel drugs for disease treatments and improve immunotherapies for patients with diseases such as cancer.
In their own words:
“To our knowledge, our study is among the first to systematically map and model how the collective actions of individual receptor molecules through physical laws could explain and predict cellular connectivity on a scale as large as the circulating immune system. Our analysis and the methods that we developed provide a template for future studies looking at physical cell wiring networks in detail. From these combined approaches, we may finally begin to disentangle cellular circuits in immunity and beyond, bridging from individual protein molecules to multicellular behaviour.”
Journal article: J. Shilts, Y. Severin, F. Galaway, et al. A physical wiring diagram for the human immune system. Nature.
Summary by Stefan Botha