Understanding the generation and persistence of immune memory in humans is key to developing better vaccines and cancer therapeutics. Our research measured the natural longevity of circulating immune memory T cells from humans. We applied three distinct areas of expertise to the project: immune cell sorting, bomb pulse radiocarbon dating, and cell turnover modeling. We sorted T cell subpopulations from human blood using flow cytometry and extracted deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from the cells, dating the extracted DNA using radiocarbon (14C) bomb pulse data and accelerator mass spectrometry. We determined, based on averaged cell ages and the bomb pulse 14C record, the circulating T cell population is young and turns over rapidly in contrast to tissue resident T cells that persist for decades.
Our project leveraged Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's core competencies in bioscience and bioengineering and advanced the Laboratory's expertise in immune response. Our results supported Livermore's chemical and biological countermeasures R&D challenge area by creating a foundation for developing better vaccines.
Malfatti, M., et al. 2019. "Radiocarbon Tracers in Toxicology and Medicine: Recent Advances in Technology and Science." Toxics 7:27. doi: 10.3390/toxics7020027. LLNL-JRNL-768802.
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