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Posts Tagged ‘CD4+T Cells’


Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have completed the first-ever characterization of the meticulously timed immune system changes in women that occur during pregnancy. The findings were published in Science Immunology revealed that there is an immune clock of pregnancy and suggest it may help doctors predict preterm birth.

 

The timing of immune system changes follows a precise and predictable pattern in normal pregnancy. Although physicians have long known that the expectant mother’s immune system adjusts to prevent her body from rejecting the fetus, no one had investigated the full scope of these changes, nor asked if their timing was tightly controlled.

 

Nearly 10 percent of U.S. infants are born prematurely, arriving three or more weeks early, but physicians lack a reliable way to predict premature deliveries. Previous research at Stanford and other places suggested that inflammatory immune responses may help in triggering early labor. It suggested that if scientists identify an immune signature of impending preterm birth, they should be able to design a blood test to detect it.

 

The researchers used mass cytometry, a technique developed at Stanford, to simultaneously measure up to 50 properties of each immune cell in the blood samples. They counted the types of immune cells, assessed what signaling pathways were most active in each cell, and determined how the cells reacted to being stimulated with compounds that mimic infection with viruses and bacteria.

 

The researchers developed an algorithm that captures the immunological timeline during pregnancy that both validates previous findings and sheds new light on immune cell interaction during gestation. By defining this immunological chronology during normal term pregnancy, they can now begin to determine which alterations associate with pregnancy-related pathologies.

 

With an advanced statistical modeling technique, introduced for the first time in this study, the scientists then described in detail how the immune system changes throughout pregnancy. Instead of grouping the women’s blood samples by trimester for analysis, the model treated gestational age as a continuous variable, allowing the researchers to account for the exact time during pregnancy at which each sample was taken. The mathematical model also incorporated knowledge from the existing scientific literature of how immune cells behave in nonpregnant individuals to help determine which findings were most likely to be important.

 

The study confirmed immune features of pregnancy that were already known. Such as the scientists saw that natural killer cells and neutrophils have enhanced action during pregnancy. The researchers also uncovered several previously unappreciated features of how the immune system changes, such as the finding that activity of the STAT5 signaling pathway in CD4+T cells progressively increases throughout pregnancy on a precise schedule, ultimately reaching levels much higher than in nonpregnant individuals. The STAT5 pathway is involved in helping another group of immune cells, regulatory T cells, to differentiate. Interestingly, prior research in animals has indicated that regulatory T cells are important for maintaining pregnancy.

 

The next step will be to conduct similar research using blood samples from women who deliver their babies prematurely to see where their trajectories of immune function differ from normal.

 

This study revealed a precisely timed chronology of immune adaptations in peripheral blood over the course of a term pregnancy. This finding was enabled by high-content, single-cell mass cytometry coupled with a csEN algorithm accounting for the modular structure of the immune system and previous knowledge. The study provided the conceptual backbone and the analytical framework to examine whether disruption of this chronology is a diagnostically useful characteristic of preterm birth and other pregnancy-related pathologies.

 

References:

 

http://immunology.sciencemag.org/content/2/15/eaan2946.full

 

http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/09/immune-system-changes-during-pregnancy-are-precisely-timed.html

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3078586/

 

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v19/n5/full/nm.3160.html?foxtrotcallback=true

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14758358

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