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The Union-Tribune reported today on a breakthrough in vaccine research made by scientists at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & and Immunology.

A team led by the institute’s Shane Crotty collaborated with a group from Yale University to uncover what the UT’s Kieth Darceè described as an “immune system road map.” Here is an excerpt from the story:

The researchers uncovered an immune-system road map by identifying a type of white blood cell called a T follicular helper. This specialized cell causes another type of white blood cell to produce antibodies, which fight viruses, bacteria and other micro-invaders.

The scientists also showed that a particular gene — Bcl6 — acts as the “on” switch, transforming certain white blood cells into T follicular helpers.

And they proved that another gene — Blimp 1 — turns off the process of making antibodies.

In short, Crotty and his colleagues have charted the path by which successful vaccines unleash the body’s defense against pathogens. Their breakthrough could pave the way for vaccines that are stronger and longer-lasting against the flu, polio or other diseases.

The achievement by Crotty’s team comes several months after researchers led by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research’s Robert Liddington announced that they have found a way to manufacture human antibodies that fight influenza viruses, and could lead to stronger vaccines.

DAVID WASHBURN

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