November 1, 2018 (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
The Human Vaccines Project has set a goal to “decode” the human immune system to generate better prevention, diagnostics and treatments for influenza.
In a groundbreaking new study led by the Human Vaccines Project, scientists will be looking in the bone marrow to understand how the human immune system responds to influenza. The researchers are especially excited about doing this because the most robust tools are now available, allowing them to really understand why different immune systems react differently to vaccines and infection.
For this study, subjects include healthy men and women. These men and women will receive an influenza vaccination in which the scientists will take a range of measurements to determine how the individuals respond to the vaccine. In addition to measuring the antibody response to the vaccine, this study will also look into other factors, such as, gene regulation, the influence of the microbiome, gender influencers, etc. After vaccine administration, the scientists will take samples of the subjects’ lymph nodes and bone marrow where key immune cells live.
This study signifies one of the most comprehensive studies of immune response to influenza. Once a better understanding is put into place, this could lead to the development of more effective influenza vaccines, and perhaps, even a universal vaccine that is strong and protects against the flu even as it mutates year to year.
Pathogens that cause the flu are complex and always changing, so scientists do not currently know what it will take for someone to build up an immunity to the pathogens. This is one of the main obstacles that stands in the way of developing a universal influenza vaccine. While one individual is not affected at all, another can face devastating illness even though the exact same pathogen is infecting both individuals. That is why uncovering why our immune systems react differently to influenza is a top priority right now in the medical community.