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Profiling immunological history

The adaptive immune system provides long-lasting protection against previously encountered pathogens via memory T cells and B cells that can quickly reactivate upon re-infection, facilitate clearance (T cells) and in many cases provide sterilizing immunity (B cells). Vaccination, the most cost-effective public health intervention, stimulates the adaptive immune system to generate responses towards antigens from a given pathogen in an attempt to generate a protective memory response.

 

A major contributor to the heterogeneity of immune responses is the diversity of our immune repertoire resulting from differences in previous exposure to pathogens. Over the course of our lives, we are exposed to numerous pathogens as well as commensals that make up much of our microbiome, all of which constantly shape our immunological repertoire. Each “battle” with a pathogen, or each vaccination, is imprinted on our immune system via long-lived memory T cells and B cells, which in some cases can persist for decades. Our immune memory protects us against re-infection with pathogens to which we have previously been exposed and to those that are antigenically similar to the previously encountered pathogens. We are working on assesing the effects of previous exposure to pathogens and commensals on the immune response following vaccination or natural infection by designing a novel assay for profiling immunological history.