Cross priming, where virus molecules indirectly activate killer T cells, could improve vaccines, according to Viral Immunology paper.

Queen’s University immunologists say that they discovered how to manipulate the immune system to increase its power and protect the body from successive viral infections.

The study suggests that scientists can boost the body’s resistance and fend off successive viral infections by taking components of the virus and indirectly activating specific populations of killer T cells. The virus components are introduced through cross priming, whereby virus molecules are engulfed by immune cells to activate killer T cells.

“With this mechanism in mind, we can develop better tools to make more successful and effective vaccines,” says Sam Basta, Ph.D., Queen’s professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and the principal investigator of the study.

The researchers hope to build on their findings by studying which immune cells do a better job of protecting the body while using this mechanism. Dr. Basta suggests that by fully understanding this new mechanism, researchers should be able to shuttle the appropriate viral components to the right immune cells.

The study is published in the current edition of Viral Immunology.

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