The immune system defends us against infections and cancer. Dendritic cells (DC) are white blood cells that have a central role to both activate the immune system against infections and regulate the immune system to prevent autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Our extensive studies on the mouse immune system have revealed that there are different types of DC, some that activate immune responses and some that suppress the immune response. Therefore targeting different types of DC has the potential to improve vaccines and protect against infections, and also to prevent autoimmune diseases.
While the different types of mouse DC that are responsible for inducing different immune responses are well characterised, it is still unclear if the same DC types exist in humans. This knowledge is essential if DC are to be used for treatment of diseases in humans. We have found that the DC types found in the mouse immune organs can also be grown in the laboratory from mouse bone marrow (BM) and blood. We propose that functionally similar DC types also exist in the immune organs of humans.
However, direct study of DC from human immune organs is impractical due to the limited availability of human tissue samples. The establishment of a culture system that supports the growth of different DC types from their ancestor cells in human BM and blood becomes essential for further studies of human DC functions.
Dr Li Wu
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
$70,000 per annum