Researchers from Melbourne, Monash and Harvard Universities published new findings on how immune cells in the skin sense foreign invaders and react with inflammation or alergic reactions to protect the body. In Nature Immunology, the researchers report that the molecule CD1a, which is found on the skin's immune cells, plays a key role in this immune response.
CD1a is found on T lymphocytes (immune system cells) in skin, where it binds to foreign lipid molecules derived from bacteria in addition to cellular lipids. It differentiates between the two to identify which lipids should be there and display the foreign invaders for the T-cells.
According to the researchers, this study differentiates the immune system's detection of lipids from its detection of proteins. In addition to describing how this mechanism operates, the researchers discuss how this part of the immune system can be manipulated to enhance immunity to infection or suppress immunity associated with allergic reactions.
The structure of lipids can also be altered using these findings to make them more or less reactive. Perhaps, the study can also be used to reduce the allergic potential of some cosmetic materials or make the skin less reactive to these materials.