We learned something new about rhesus macaques' immune system!

20 Nov 2017 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports

And why this matters to both monkeys and humans

Last week we learned something about the rhesus macaque's immune system that we did not know yet, which means we are a step closer to fighting certain viruses, such as primate HIV. This matters to humans, too, for reasons we will explain below.

Our immune systems are not strong enough to tackle just about anything

Every human being has an immune system which is supposed to kill pathogens before they can cause any damage. Unfortunately, even this ingenious system within our bodies is not naturally strong enough to fight off all viruses, meaning we need special therapies to effectively deal with certain pathogens. These therapies (such as vaccines) are developed on the basis of scientific research.

How to develop therapies

A rhesus macaque's immune system is very similar to a human being's. As a result, these animals are highly suited to the testing of new therapies against diseases such as AIDS. The purpose of these therapies is to accelerate and strengthen the monkey's natural response to the virus. Obviously, it is vital that we understand how monkeys naturally respond to such viruses, which is why we are gradually mapping out components of the immune system. It will take us a long time to do so, because the system is very complex. It is basically a jigsaw puzzle consisting of thousands of pieces.

A new piece of the jigsaw puzzle

A team of BPRC scientists have recently put a new piece of the jigsaw puzzle into place and dissected a part of the rhesus macaque's immune system – a part which may play a part in the body's defence against certain viruses, such as primate HIV. BPRC's scientists have published their findings in the prominent academic journal The Journal of Immunology. The importance of their work is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the journal's editorial team specifically focuses on the study in the foreword to this edition of the journal.