Natural killer (NK) cells, an important component of the immune system, can 'remember' prior exposure to foreign molecules, according to a report in the May 2006 issue of Nature Immunology.
Immunological memory is beneficial because it allows the immune system to react more efficiently should the host become re-exposed to a pathogen. This new finding is unexpected because previously it was believed that only T cells and B cells had 'memory'.
Ulrich von Andrian and colleagues show that NK cells, even in the absence of T cells and B cells, can mount an immune response against a foreign molecule to which they have been previously exposed. Exactly how NK cells 'remember' they have previously encountered the foreign molecule is not clear at present. Nevertheless, these results emphasize NK cells as potential new targets for the treatment of pathological conditions involving immunological memory.
Ulrich von Andrian (Harvard Medical School, CBR Institute for Biomedical Research, Boston, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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