In August 2022 scientists published a “comprehensive map” of the immune system. Released in Nature in August 2022, this research is expected to open new opportunities for immunotherapies by exploring key cellular communications.  

The research identifies several “previously unknown interactions” that bring us closer to understanding immune responses. All knowledge of the interactions between immune cells is “vital” in developing immunotherapies. Furthermore, understanding the “cell-to-cell” signals within the immune system allows researchers to pursue preventative measures against autoimmune diseases.  

“The map of immune receptor connections could help explain why immunotherapies sometimes only work in a subset of patients, and offer new targets for designing future immunotherapies” 

The researchers “isolated and investigated” a set of the surface proteins that “physically link immune cells together”. Using computational and mathematical analysis they then detailed “cell types, messengers, and relative speed of each conversation”.  

With the map, it is possible to see the effect that each different disease has on the immune system. Then we can explore new therapies that target different proteins on the immune cell surface.  

Jarrod Shilts, first author, stated that this map is a “huge step in understanding the inner workings of the immune system”. He hopes it will be used globally to “develop new therapies that work with the body’s defence mechanisms”.  The analysis and methods used provide a “template” for investigation into “physical cell wiring networks”. The authors hope that further research will “disentangle cellular circuits in immunity and beyond”.  

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