Research discovers immune system generator cells

In collaboration with the Press Association

Australian researchers have discovered a new type of cell thought to be important in maintaining the body's immune system, a finding that could have a long-term impact on treating many diseases, including cancer.

While knowledge of this process remains in its earliest stages, the finding could one day lead to new treatments for cancers, as well as HIV, malaria, influenza and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes.

The discovery resolves speculation about how the body produces specialised white blood cells, known as dendritic cells (DC) which search for infections and alert the rest of the immune system to their presence.

Since they were discovered in 1975, scientists have attempted to discover how DC are generated. Now, Australian scientists say that they have discovered the different processes involved in DC formation.

In doing so, the researchers also found that different DC are specialised to act in different ways, a finding that significantly alters how the immune system is understood.

The research was carried out by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and published on the website Nature Immunology.

Read the paper online