Immune profiles


The cell menagerie: human immune profiling

September 17, 2015

Technology feature (print and online): “Learning to make vaccines that protect more people means getting a better handle on the immune system — a bewildering militia of cells that communicate to detect and destroy pathogens. So far, attempts to parse the system’s complexity have involved work on mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, non-human primates and even lampreys and sea urchins. Yet results do not always translate to the one species that medicine cares most about. “There has been a vast zoo of animal models, but the one animal model we haven’t yet exploited is us — Homo sapiens,” says Bali Pulendran, an immunologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now, researchers are tackling the most difficult animal to study as never before. Advances in technology are helping scientists to dive deeper into the inner workings of single cells and carry out analysis on greater numbers of cells at once. Efforts in data analysis, sharing and collaboration promise to enable work that is too expensive for individual labs. Ultimately, researchers hope to bring fresh insights to the clinic to protect and treat people using the power of an individual’s own immune defences.”

Immune cells surrounding the hair follicles of a mouse’s skin
Credit: NIAID via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)