Exposure to Common Cold Coronaviruses Trains T Cells to Fight SARS-CoV-2, Study Finds

Exposure to Common Cold Coronaviruses Trains T Cells to Fight SARS-CoV-2, Study Finds

New research conducted at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) has unveiled groundbreaking evidence suggesting that exposure to common cold coronaviruses can actually train T cells to effectively combat SARS-CoV-2. In exciting developments, this prior exposure appears to offer partial protection against lung damage caused by subsequent SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice.

The study, recently published in Nature Communications, marks an important milestone in understanding the development and functionality of “cross-reactive” T cells – immune cells that can combat multiple viruses from the same viral family. Dr. Annie Elong Ngono, a Research Instructor at LJI and co-leader of the study, explains, “We are learning how these immune cells develop and function.”

Driven by these findings, the Shresta Laboratory at LJI is now committed to designing innovative vaccines that harness the power of these T cells. These vaccines aim to not only protect against SARS-CoV-2 but also confer immunity against various other coronaviruses with pandemic potential.

T cells, known for their specialization, are trained to target specific molecular targets, or epitopes, belonging to specific pathogens. Cross-reactive T cells are invaluable for human health as they can identify epitope targets on different but closely related pathogens, including coronaviruses responsible for both common colds and severe diseases like SARS-CoV-2.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put cross-reactive T cells in the spotlight. In early 2020, LJI Professors Shane Crotty and Alessandro Sette discovered that individuals who had never been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 already possessed T cells capable of recognizing the novel coronavirus. This revelation led researchers to investigate the connection.

It was revealed that many individuals had contracted common cold coronaviruses long before the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. The subsequent discovery that cross-reactive T cells could identify targets on both viruses and that their presence correlated with a lower risk of severe COVID-19 sparked hope for the development of a vaccine capable of protecting against various types of coronaviruses, including emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.

“To design better vaccines, we need to know exactly how these protective T cells develop and how long that window of protection lasts,” explains Dr. Rúbens Alves, a Postdoctoral Fellow at LJI and the first author of the study.

Undoubtedly, the Shresta Lab’s commitment to answering these crucial questions through the use of humanized mouse models will pave the way for a deeper understanding of infectious diseases and the development of more effective vaccines. The tantalizing prospect of harnessing the power of T cells to combat multiple coronaviruses brings optimism to the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and future potential outbreaks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) based on the article:

1. What did the research conducted at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) reveal?
The research revealed that exposure to common cold coronaviruses can train T cells to combat SARS-CoV-2, offering partial protection against lung damage caused by subsequent SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice.

2. What are cross-reactive T cells?
Cross-reactive T cells are immune cells that can combat multiple viruses from the same viral family. They can identify epitope targets on different but closely related pathogens, including coronaviruses responsible for both common colds and severe diseases like SARS-CoV-2.

3. What is the significance of cross-reactive T cells in the context of COVID-19?
Cross-reactive T cells are significant because they were found in individuals who had never been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 before. The presence of these T cells correlated with a lower risk of severe COVID-19. This discovery has sparked hope for the development of a vaccine that can protect against various types of coronaviruses, including emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.

4. What is the goal of the Shresta Laboratory at LJI?
The goal of the Shresta Laboratory is to design innovative vaccines that harness the power of cross-reactive T cells. These vaccines aim to protect against SARS-CoV-2 and confer immunity against other coronaviruses with pandemic potential.

5. What questions does the research team aim to answer?
The research team aims to understand how these protective T cells develop and how long the window of protection lasts. This knowledge is crucial for designing better vaccines.

6. How will the research be conducted?
The research will be conducted using humanized mouse models in the Shresta Laboratory at LJI.

7. What is the potential impact of harnessing the power of T cells?
The potential impact of harnessing the power of T cells is the development of more effective vaccines that can combat multiple coronaviruses. This brings optimism to the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and future potential outbreaks.

Definitions:

– T cells: Immune cells that can identify and target specific molecular targets, or epitopes, belonging to specific pathogens.

– Epitopes: Molecular targets on pathogens, specifically in this article, coronaviruses.

– Cross-reactive T cells: Immune cells that can combat multiple viruses from the same viral family. They can identify epitope targets on different but closely related pathogens, such as coronaviruses responsible for common colds and severe diseases like SARS-CoV-2.

Suggested related links:
La Jolla Institute for Immunology

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