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Cambridge University Science Magazine
The human immune system is incredibly complex, with several different cell types that communicate via networks of proteins. These interactions are key to the understanding of immunological disorders and are also of significant interest to researchers investigating cancer biology; harnessing the power of the immune system can be an effective way to target tumours.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and their collaborators have successfully created a novel and integrated map of the proteins involved in signalling within the human immune system. They used newly optimised protocols to screen for potential physical interactions between pairs of proteins and validated each interaction via extensive computational and mathematical methods. Whilst several previous attempts to characterise networks of immunological interactions have been made, this map is thought to be one of the first that allows for each of these interactions to be viewed within different biological contexts. For example, the affinity with which a particular protein might bind to a receptor is not always constant, but may increase in a state of inflammation as cells of the immune system are activated. Furthermore, much existing network analysis focuses primarily on secreted proteins, often neglecting interactions that take place on cell surfaces.

As well as increasing our understanding of how the immune system operates, there is hope that the new mapping of interactions may shed light on new insights in the pharmaceutical industry, including potential new drug targets.

Yan-Yi Lee and Sung-Mu Lee

Original Article:

Image credit: Alex Ritter, Jennifer Lippincott Schwartz and Gillian Griffiths, National Institutes of Health

Image licence: Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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