Identify of Human Dendritic Cells Dictated Largely by Ontogeny, Not Tissue Microenvironment

Dendritic cells represent an important component of the immune system: they recognize and engulf invaders, which subsequently triggers a pathogen-specific immune response. Scientists of the University Hospital Erlangen of the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the LIMES (Life and Medical Sciences) Institute of the University of Bonn have recently gained substantial knowledge of human dendritic cells, which might contribute to the development of immune therapies in the future. The results were published in the December 16, 2016 issue of Science Immunology. The article is titled “Human Lymphoid Organ Dendritic Cell Identity Is Predominantly Dictated by Ontogeny, not Tissue Microenvironment.” Dendritic cells - their name is derived from the large numbers of dendrites (branched projections) on their cell surface - populate most parts of the human body. There, they act as guards by recognizing, engulfing, and processing foreign pathogens. Finally, those dendritic cells migrate to nearby lymph nodes, where they interact with other immune cells to trigger a pathogen-specific immune response. Consequently, dendritic cells play an important role within the complex immune system. In recent years, it became evident that, in the mouse, dendritic cells are composed of different subtypes, which differ in function and distribution across the body. In contrast, less was known about the corresponding situation in humans. Recently, Dr. Gordon Heidkamp and Professor Dr. Diana Dudziak from the University Hospital Erlangen performed a global study, which, for the first time, systematically characterized dendritic cells in different human organs such as blood, spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, and cord blood.
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