A new study on T cells in lymph nodes may hold great significance for the development of HIV vaccines

Published 2018-06-29 16:13. Updated 2018-06-29 16:14

Marcus Buggert, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Infectious Medicine, has had his study about identifying HIV-specific T cells in lymph nodes published in Science Immunology.

Marcus Buggert is part of the Johan Sandberg group at CIM and has recently returned to KI after completing a postdoctoral position at UPenn (University of Pennsylvania) in the USA. It was during a study at UPenn that he discovered that killer T cells in lymph nodes are tissue-resident, meaning that they remain in the tissue and do not circulate in the blood. The science behind this may hold great significance for the production of new vaccines.

Can you shed some more light on the study behind the article?

“HIV is a virus that primarily replicates (divides) in lymph nodes. Killer T cells are important in controlling HIV, however the majority of the studies on these cells have been performed on blood and not on lymph nodes. By comparing studies on people both infected and uninfected by HIV, we have identified that the majority of killer T cells in lymph nodes are so called tissue-resident memory T cells - this means that the cells remain in the tissue and do not circulate in the blood. In addition, we have shown that individuals who control the infection have a stronger tissue-resident T cell defence which responds to the HIV, compared with individuals who do not control the infection. These individuals are referred to as elite controllers", says Marcus Buggert. 

How can we use this discovery?

"Through these findings, we have identified an important link that we were previously unable to study within the blood, that the majority of T cells which recognise and control HIV in lymph nodes are tissue-resident. Future vaccines and cure studies within the field of HIV should focus on identifying how we can induce higher levels of tissue-resident memory T cells, where the virus mainly spreads and divides.", says Marcus Buggert. 

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