May 22, 2024
Respiratory Tract Infections

Advancements in B Cell Research to Improve Antibodies and Combat Autoimmune Diseases

Researchers at Harvard Medical School affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital have conducted four new studies shedding light on the processes involved in B cells producing antibodies that effectively combat infections and vaccines, as well as their role in autoimmune diseases.

The studies, led by HMS researchers, provide insights on enhancing the process of affinity maturation to develop more broadly protective vaccines and antibody-based treatments. They also explore instances where affinity maturation leads to the creation of antibodies that attack the body’s own cells, offering potential strategies for treating autoimmune diseases.

Previous attempts to create more potent antibodies have faced challenges, often resulting in disruptions in B cell function or the development of inefficient and unstable antibodies. In an effort to capture the natural power of affinity maturation, researchers utilized CRISPR gene editing on B cells in mice to replace genes for antibody light and heavy chains with their human counterparts, resulting in the production of potent human antibodies in a short period.

The research team, under the leadership of Yiming Yin and Michael Farzan, sought to mimic the specific immune features unique to humans, leading to the generation of more effective antibodies against pathogens such as HIV and variants of SARS-CoV-2. They plan to further test these antibodies in non-human primates to assess their efficacy.

Another study focused on germinal centers, the structures facilitating B cell maturation in lymph nodes and spleen. Pankaj Sharma and Florian Winau’s team discovered that a lipid named Gb3 is crucial for B cells to mature in germinal centers and produce high-affinity antibodies. The addition of Gb3 to a flu vaccine improved protection against diverse strains of influenza, potentially offering a solution to the virus’s tendency to mutate and evade vaccines.

The researchers propose using Gb3 as an adjuvant in vaccinations against various viral infections, including cancer vaccines, to enhance the generation of broadly neutralizing antibodies.

These studies underscore the significance of understanding B cell responses and affinity maturation in developing more effective vaccines, treatments, and potential therapies for autoimmune diseases. The findings contribute to advancing the field of immunology and hold promise in combatting a wide range of health challenges.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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