By analysing tissues harvested from organ donors, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have created the first ever "atlas" of immune cells in the human body. Their results provide a unique view of the distribution and function of T lymphocytes in healthy individuals. In addition, the findings represent a major step toward development of new strategies for creating vaccines and immunotherapies. The study was published today in the online edition of the journal Immunity.
The researchers also discovered a receptor that is expressed on the surface of "tissue-resident" T cells but not on circulating T cells. Using this marker, Dr Farber and her colleagues established that the blood is its own compartment. "In other words, T cells found in circulation are not the same as T cells in the tissues," said Dr Farber.