Making a Difference 2019-2020

Assisted by funding support from the ARC, researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have identified a molecular switch that impacts immune responses to viral infections, and determines if they produce protective antibodies. The team also made the surprising discovery that the immune system protects against different viruses via distinct pathways—findings that could lead to better strategies to develop vaccines for previously hard-to-prevent viruses. The research, led by ARC Future Fellow, Dr Joanna Groom , and PhD student, Ms Amania Sheikh, identified that the protein ‘T-bet’ determines how the immune system responds to viral infections. The T-bet protein enables immune T cells to distinguish between different viral infections, controlling whether or not protective antibodies are produced. Antibodies are an essential component of long-lived immunity to viruses. The researchers say that their findings help to reconcile a controversy in the field about how the immune system can distinguish between different viral infections, and respond in distinct ways. Their experiments compared immune responses to two viruses, influenza and LCMV, a virus that can cause meningitis. They showed that T-bet was critical for scaling how much antibody production occurred in response to a viral infection. The discovery could underpin the development of better vaccines to prevent viral diseases, as current vaccines to infectious diseases rely on robust and long-lived antibody production. Note: This research was funded by the ARC’s 2013 Future Fellowships scheme round. Medical Research Institutes were eligible to apply for Future Fellowships from the introduction of the scheme in 2009, until 2014. UNCOVERING THE MECHANISM TO HUMAN VIRAL IMMUNITY



Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker