How is the immunological T cell memory generated?
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Memory cells are of an immense importance for the generation of protection against recurrent infections, therefore an important factor for the development of new vaccine candidates and improvement of already existing vaccines. However, the molecular and differentiation pathways central to the generation, maintenance and recall of CD8+ T cell memory are still far from clear. Our studies showed for the first time that immunological memory is generated within three days after influenza infection, preferentially in the draining lymph nodes. These findings shifted the paradigm for generation of immunological memory. Now we aim to understand the mechanisms underlying early establishment of T cell memory and its maintenance. The key questions of the current research program are:
- what determines that a particular T cell at the onset of influenza virus infection becomes a memory rather than effector T cell
- what are the molecular mechanisms involved in the process of memory formation
- how do these early generated memory cells offer life-long protection, especially in the aged population
Our hypothesis is that by providing the optimal stimulation, we can increase the number of life-lasting influenza-specific memory CD8+ T cells, thereby improving protection against recurrent infections. Since generation of memory cells is one of the key questions in viral immunology, the outcomes of this work will lead to improved understanding of antiviral immunity and facilitate development of successful vaccines.
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