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Illustration of T cells © fusebulb/

Researchers from the Ogg group in the MRC Translational Immune Discovery Unit have been part of an international collaboration that has developed a method for simultaneously detecting thousands of lipid molecules that are displayed to T cells in the human immune system.

The study, published in Cell, was led by Professor Branch Moody of the Division of Rheumatology, Immunity and Inflammation at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, and involved researchers from the USA, Australia, Netherlands and the UK.

The team developed a new and sensitive method to detect more than 2,000 lipids bound to CD1 antigen-presenting molecules, which display antigens to the human immune system. While scientists have long known that T cells recognize antigens, until the 1990s, it was thought that these antigens were always peptides derived from proteins. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that non-peptide molecules such as lipids also form a major part of the antigen landscape recognised by T cells. The ability to measure many lipid antigens at one time will allow future researchers to cross-check any disease-related lipid of interest to the list of candidate lipid antigens from this map and potentially make connections to diseases.

Professor Graham Ogg said that he was delighted to collaborate with Professor Branch Moody and colleagues on helping to define the nature of lipid antigens presented by CD1 molecules and their functional relevance.  “CD1a was first discovered in 1979 in a landmark paper by Andrew McMichael and Cesar Milstein and colleagues. Major new pathway biology continues to be discovered as in the work published in Cell, as well as an increased understanding of the role that CD1-reactive T cells have in human disease. The activities are currently focused on progressing the discoveries towards patient benefit.”

Read the news release from Brigham and Women's Hospital on EurekAlert! here.

Read the full paper here.