Major study into human immune system

Major study into human immune system

Researchers at King’s are embarking on a major study to establish for the first time, the baseline of immune function in a large number of individuals, and how this baseline normally responds to a routine environmental stimulus - a vaccination.

The study is being carried out by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London) together with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA.

The team of researchers will undertake an in-depth analysis of white blood cell function donated by healthy volunteers two times before and four times after being vaccinated with the H1N1 “swine flu” vaccination.

Principal Investigator, Professor Adrian Hayday, Head of the Department of Immunobiology at King’s said: ’This study is extremely exciting, as surprising though it may seem, rather little is known about the normal operating state of a human immune system. While it is increasingly being linked to human diseases; not just the obvious ones such as infections, allergy and autoimmune disease, but also to cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, we have not yet defined ’’normal’’.

’We don’t know how much ’’normal” varies from person to person, or in a single person over time. Advances made via the NIHR comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre and the link-up with the NIH provide us with the expertise to define normal to a sophisticated level of analysis, potentially permitting sensitive detection of what becomes abnormal in the very early stages of disease.’

’It is increasingly understood that the human body reacts immediately to an infection or vaccination by what is known as an innate response, and that this is followed by a slower, adaptive response. But, we don’t know the individual variation in key aspects of these. The timing of blood samples in this study will enable researchers to study what is going on at a cellular and molecular level, potentially identifying new links between the human immune system’s immediate and longer-term response to an immunological challenge. This may significantly improve vaccine design in the future.’

NIH immunologists Drs Pamela Schwartzberg and Ronald Germain, will lead the implementation of the immune response study in the US, as part of their work with the NIH Center for Human Immunology. The parallel NIHR and NIH studies will utilise common standard operating procedures for the collection and processing of samples.

Dr Schwartzberg said: ’This coordination will allow data from the aggregate populations in the two studies to be considered together. It will add much greater power to the downstream analysis.’

The NIHR and NIH collaboration will enable cross-validation of testing procedures and early exchange of details surrounding newly developed testing methods, enhancing the quality and depth of both studies. Subjects in the two study groups will represent diverse ethnic groups, different genetic composition, and exposure to distinct environments and vaccine preparations, broadening the scope of the conclusions that can be drawn from this study of the normal state of the immune system and its response to vaccines.

For more details about the study, visit: