Winning research team unlocks immune system secret - specialised T cells attack microbes as they make their vitamins

A research partnership between The University of Melbourne and Monash University has won $80,000 to help continue groundbreaking work on how the immune system identifies and fights disease. The research could assist the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis and lead to better vaccines. The successful team, led by Professors James McCluskey and Jamie Rossjohn, has won the GSK Award for Research Excellence announced last night at the Research Australia Annual Awards.

Professors McCluskey and Rossjohn have uncovered insights into how the immune system recognises pathogens (harmful germs) such as salmonella and tuberculosis. The surprising discovery reveals how the making of Vitamin B2 by microbes could lead to how our immune system recognises these pathogens. This research could be the starting point in better understanding our body’s first line of defence. 

Professor James McCluskey explains that their recent breakthrough shows how the immune system uses the building blocks in Vitamin B2 production to recognise bacteria.

“Bacteria, not humans, manufacture vitamins, which is why we rely on our diet to provide vitamins. We have learnt that the manufacture of vitamin B2 or riboflavin, plays an extremely important and protective role in alerting the immune system to foreign bacteria,” he says.

“This work is but the tip of the iceberg in understanding the role of certain cells in the immune system,” McCluskey says. “It’s a great example of curiosity-led science and could lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers and even tuberculosis - it could also lead to novel protective vaccines.”

Professor Jamie Rossjohn says winning the GSK Award for Research Excellence will help both teams nurture new talent in their laboratories and play an important role in publicising their long-term work.

“Winning the GSK Award for Research Excellence places our work in the public eye. It’s early days, but the public can rest assured that our teams are working extremely hard to see where this discovery will take us. The best fundamental science will lead to the best innovative therapeutics,” he says.

Geoff McDonald, GSK Australia Vice President and General Manager, says GSK is very proud to be able to support local researchers with the Award, now in its 35th year.

“It is a great honour to be able to assist outstanding researchers with this award,” he said. “Research and development is all about inquisitiveness and innovation.  Key new insights like this along the path to discovery are of great importance and need to be encouraged and supported.”

The GSK Award for Research Excellence was presented at the Research Australia Annual Award, Park Hyatt, Melbourne.

ENDS

 

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Kim O'Donohue

GSK Communications Manager, Pharmaceuticals ANZ

kim.j.odonohue@gsk.com

+61 477 322 431

 

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