A New Way of Boosting the Immune System Is Being Developed

A recent study has come with quite interesting findings concerning our health. According to the study, the innate immune system can be trained to remember the past threats so as to be prepared to respond to similar challenges in future.

Whenever vaccines against such diseases as influenza and polio are administered, the immune system is ‘taught’ to respond to such infections in future. These vaccines make the so-called adaptive immune system be able to protect you against a particular threat.

But now let us think of a situation where a more general vaccine exists that protects the body against various disease threats. In the study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, it was discovered that better response to disease attacks can be obtained through training the body's innate immune system to remember the past threats. This training, though, needs to be done at the bone marrow level. These new findings lead us to a strategy where one can train the immune system before entering a disease risk zone.

Additionally, such training can also be applied to chemotherapy situations where the body is trained to avoid depletion of the neutrophils. A possible approach in this case will be taking beta-glucan, a compound derived from a fungus, before undergoing chemotherapy. This compound will activate your immune system to respond faster to any infections that may arise later.

The general understanding in immunology is that the body’s adaptive immune system has a kind of memory. And this is the reason why vaccines will remain effective after so many years of being administered. The innate immune system, on the other hand, doesn't have a memory, but it can be trained to fight infections and viruses, according to the study.

This training is mediated by the epigenetic changes that take place in the mature myeloid cells. They include neutrophils, macrophages and monocytes. These cells usually last for a very short time. The training effect, on the other hand, needs to last for several months. For this to happen, the training needs to affect the bone marrow, the place where the hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) sit. This method was tested on mice, where they were injected with beta-glucan, and within a day their HSC levels had increased. The HSC changes made to the mice were found to be long-lasting.

With successful test results obtained from the mice, scientists believe that the human immune system can be greatly boosted by this training as well. The approach seems to be safe as there is no evidence of any damage to the DNA so far. The only risk that needs to be further tested is the possibility of an overabundance of the inflammatory signaling. Such a possibility may lead to other issues like autoimmune disease and tissue damage.