Wednesday, October 04, 2006
University of Pennsylvania Researchers Discover 'Killer' B Cells - New Link in the Evolution of Immunity
Philadelphia: Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have discovered a unique evolutionary link between the immune systems of fish and mammals in the form of a primitive version of B cells, white blood cells of the immune system. Their studies link the evolution of the adaptive immune system in mammals, where B cells produce antibodies to fight infection, to the more primitive innate immunity in fish, where they found that B cells take part in phagocytosis (literally: cell eating), the process by which cells of the immune system ingest foreign particles and microbes.
The finding, which appears in the online version of the journal Nature Immunology and will be featured on the cover of the October issue, represents a sizeable evolutionary step for the mammalian immune system and offers a potential new strategy for developing much-needed fish vaccines.
'When examining fish B cells we see them actively attacking and eating foreign bodies, which is a behavior that, according to the current dogma, just shouldn't happen in B cells,' said J. Oriol Sunyer (homepage), a professor in Penn Vet's Department of Pathobiology. 'I believe it is evidence for a very real connection between the most primitive forms of immunological defense, which has survived in fish, and the more advanced, adaptive immune response seen in humans and other mammals.'
Based on "B lymphocytes from early vertebrates have potent phagocytic and microbicidal abilities" (Abstract) [Behaviour]
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