Helmholtz Association

Casting show in the lymph nodes

From research conducted at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI)
Modell Immunzellen im Lymphknoten

Modell der Verteilung von Immunzellen im Lymphknoten. Die dunkle Zone ist da, wo es dominant blau ist, die helle, wo es dominant grün ist. Photo/Graphic: HZI.Read more

Lymph nodes are the marketplaces of the immune system: it is here that cells exchange information about pathogens that have entered the body and prepare their immune defence.

“What looks like a teeming mass of thousands of cells is in fact a highly structured organ,” says Professor Michael Meyer-Hermann of the HZI. Using a mathematical model that replicated the movement of immune cells in the lymph nodes, he and his team were able to explain findings provided by their American collaborators. The cells migrate back and forth between the light and dark zones of the lymph nodes, passing through different optimisation cycles. “The immune cells multiply, mutate and modify their antibodies. In the light zone the body checks whether these mutations offer a better immune defence. If the answer is yes, the cells in question are selected. Then the cycle begins anew. This process produces optimised antibodies that efficiently bind to the respective pathogens, marking them for phagocytes,” explains Meyer-Hermann. In cycle after cycle, the defence cells that are better suited for fighting the pathogens are selected. The process provides the organism with optimised weapons (efficient antibodies). This new understanding of the selection of immune cells and the optimisation of immune responses could play an important role in the development of enhanced vaccinations based on the formation of highly effective antibodies in the body.

Andreas Fischer

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18.04.2014

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