Our immune system is as unique as a fingerprint or our DNA

Double-stranded DNA fragment. Credits: Vcpmartin / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Everyone seems to have a completely unique immune system. Researchers at Utrecht University discovered this immune diversity after mapping antibodies from healthy and sick people. This finding may help explain, for example, why the corona vaccine appears to be ineffective for some people.

The way our immune system responds to pathogens varies from person to person. Researchers at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht have discovered that each person is developing their own arsenal. antibody, A protein produced as part of the body’s immune response to infection. Also, the levels of these proteins change in a unique way during illness and after vaccination.Researchers publish results in journal today Cell system..

The results may help explain why some people are more susceptible to illness or why they recover from illness faster than others. The extreme diversity of immune responses can also create new possibilities for personalized treatment and vaccination.

No duplication

The Utrecht team discovered diversity when monitoring antibodies in the blood of healthy and seriously ill people. The latter suffered from a serious infection and recovered after spending intensive care.

The researchers analyzed the levels of all antibodies that appear simultaneously in the blood. They found that there was no overlap in this regard between the blood samples of the people surveyed. The composition and concentration of antibodies varied completely from person to person.

Up and down

Antibody levels also seemed to fluctuate in a unique way during the illness. For example, in some sick people, the levels of antibodies to the infection fluctuated more rapidly than in others.

The antibody itself was also different. Even antibodies aimed at targeting the exact same pathogen appeared to be slightly different at the molecular level.

Very sensitive measurement

Until now, this feature was unnoticed. Scientists found it impossible to accurately map a complex mixture of antibodies in the blood. However, the Utrecht research team, led by biochemist Albert Heck, managed to achieve this. The team has developed a very sensitive analysis that reveals subtle differences in antibody mixtures. This method Mass spectrometry, Separates substances based on their molecular composition.

Will never be exactly the same

“So far, we’ve tested the technology on about 100 individuals, including Covid patients and vaccinated people,” says Heck. “Two different people have never encountered the exact same antibody. It is no exaggeration to say that every person’s antibody profile is as unique as or even more unique than someone’s DNA.”

Small differences, big results

The difference in antibodies is small, but it can have a significant impact on the course of the disease. According to Heck, the difference can even explain why some people get sick with infections and others don’t. If someone reduces the number of antibodies to a particular pathogen or creates ineffective mutants, the disease can occur more severely or multiple times.

Differences in the success of the Covid vaccine

According to Heck, antibody diversity could explain why some people have a vaccinated illness, or even if they had the same illness before. This also applies to the corona vaccine. “After being exposed to the virus, either by infection or vaccination, your body probably begins to produce dozens of different antibodies against the virus, but those antibodies are primarily one,” Heck said. It may act on corona variants. When another variant appears, it becomes infected again. ”

For other people, the antibody profile is also different, so the results can be very different. “It is possible that another person may create slightly different variants of the antibody, or at different concentrations, to better protect against other viral variants, so such a person may be a new variant. You are less likely to get sick from being infected with the virus. ”

Bespoke vaccination

According to Heck, this opens up new opportunities for optimal vaccination for someone’s immune system. “By mapping someone’s antibody profile, you can track your body’s response to vaccination or infection. In this way, you can see if your body is producing enough of the antibody of interest, such as an antibody against coronavirus. You can also consider providing booster shots if production is inadequate. ”

Dreams come true

Heck describes the publication as follows: Cell system May your dreams come true. “About five years ago, I was wondering if this could be achieved. Now, thanks to the efforts of a large team, it turns out to be technically possible, opening up new possibilities for prevention and treatment. It turns out that it is very wide open. ”

Delta variants make the COVID-19 vaccine even more important, even if you are already infected with the coronavirus

For more information:
Albert Bont et al., The human plasma IgG1 repertoire is simple, unique and dynamic. Cell system (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.cels.2021.08.008

Provided by
Utrecht University

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