How the immune system builds long-term memory, according to experts

A new research work developed by Japanese scientists has identified a key part of the long-term memory of the immune system. This element provides key details to improve the development of vaccines for different diseases .

Specifically, this new research work offers interesting results for the development of future vaccines for any disease, such as Covid – 19 or even malaria. Specifically, it concerns the behavior of the TBK1 enzyme in deciding the fate of memory B cells of the immune system.

It must be taken into account that the immune system is composed of a great variety of cells, although the two most relevant types of this study carried out by the University of Tokyo (Japan) are white blood cells (CD4 follicular helper lymphocytes and B cells.

When the body recognizes an infection, the molecular helper T lymphocytes have the mission of releasing chemical signals that cause immature B lymphocytes to learn and generate memory about which pathogens they should attack .

Thus, this signaling process between T and B cells, and the formation of B cells takes place within a temporary cellular structure called the germinal center, which occurs in organs of the immune system , such as lymph nodes, spleen and tonsils.

Long-term memory of the immune system

Based on this, memory B cells have the ability to memorize a pathogen the first time it infects it. Therefore, if that pathogen re-enters the body, mature memory B cells attack the pathogen with antibodies, preventing the person from feeling sick a second time.


Regarding this research work, the memory of the immune system and the current vaccination context, Professor Michelle SJ Lee explains that «one of the objectives of vaccination is to produce high-quality memory B cells for long-lasting antibody production. ”

Next, Dr. Lee adds that “there are many factors that must be taken into account when designing vaccines to achieve long-lasting immunity, so we should not focus solely on the germinal center. But if you don't have a functional germinal center, you will be very susceptible to reinfection. “

What about malaria?

However, these researchers explain that there is no limit to the number of times a mosquito can bite you and reinfect you with the malaria parasite. This means that malaria parasites somehow escape memory B cells.

Thus, this ability of the parasite to evade the memory B cells of the immune system makes malaria a widely interesting pathogen to study the mechanisms of human immunity.

In conclusion, the researcher Cevayir Coban, who heads the Malaria Immunology Division at the UTokio Institute of Medical Sciences, argues that “we want to understand the fundamentals of the natural immune response. Everything we do must be aimed at benefiting malaria patients. ”

«The Covid pandemic – 19 brought worldwide attention to infectious diseases and interest in vaccine design, so we have the opportunity to renew attention to neglected diseases such as malaria, “he concludes.

Based on the results of this research, Professor Coban points out that “for now, we can at least say that an effective vaccine tailored to produce long-lasting protective immunity should not reduce TBK1 activity in B lymphocytes” .