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Decoding Your Immune System’s Memories

By September 6, 2018No Comments

You remember the last time you were laid up with the flu. The aches, the chills. Well, your immune system remembers, too — and it recorded that memory in your genes.

study published this week by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggests that, with enough work, we can decipher the hidden messages that our immune systems have recorded. That’s important because, if we could learn to decode this concealed knowledge, it could have enormous potential for diagnosing or treating disease, the researchers said.

In the study, published Aug. 28 in the journal eLife, the team examined genes in immune cells called T cells. The researchers showed that they could detect clear patterns among different individuals, and these patterns appeared to hint at previous viral exposures and shared genetic traits.

“I think it does paint an optimistic picture of the utility of T-cell repertoires as diagnostics,” said Dr. Phil Bradley, a Fred Hutch structural biologist and the study’s senior author.