Novel Genomic Tools Provide Insight to Human Immune System

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New study finds cell transcriptome to identify a previously unknown precursor for subgroup of killer T cells that is primarily found in humans with chronic viral infections.

Novel genomic tools reveal rare cell types with unexpected variability and plasticity within groups changing the conventional view of immune cells assigned to the same category as unvarying entities that behave in a constant manner. The findings of the study was published on the January 19, 2018 in Science Immunology. The study provides insights to how CD4 cytotoxic T cells arise in humans and thus facilitate improved vaccine design to protect against chronic viral infections such as cytomegalovirus, HIV, and hepatitis C.

Researchers at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) used single-cell transcriptome analysis to identify a previously unknown precursor for less known subgroup of killer T cells that is primarily found in humans with chronic viral infections. Detailed analysis of transcribed genes in more than 9,000 individual cells revealed an unprecedented level of heterogeneity. “Continually evolving genomic tools and single cell analysis technologies are revolutionizing our understanding of the human immune system in health and disease,” said Pandurangan Vijayanand, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor and William K. Bowes Jr. Distinguished Professor.

T cells are classifies into two broad categories: CD4-positive helper T cells, which help activate other immune cells and CD8-positive cytotoxic T cells, which kill cells that are cancerous or infected with viruses. However, a portion of helper T cells turns into cytotoxic T cells (CD4-CTLs) under some circumstances. CD4 CTLs are reported to have link with chronic viral infections such as human cytomegalovirus (CMV), HIV, dengue virus, and hepatitis C virus.

Researchers also analyzed thousands of individual CD4-CTLs isolated from peripheral blood from donors using single cell RNA sequencing, which can define different cell types and subtypes by revealing differences in the transcripts produced by individual cells. According to T Cell Therapy Market report published by Coherent Market Insights, T cell is an innovative technique that involves removal of T Cells from patient’s blood before reinsertion using a genetically altered mechanism. The study reveals subset of CD4-CTLs precursors that potentially give rise to fully fledged CD4 CTLs in human.

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