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How T cells respond to vaccination against COVID-19

Memphis, Tennessee, December 29, 2021

Three St. Jude scientists walking outside the Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center having  a conversation

(L to R) Mikhail Pogorelyy, Ph.D., Anastasia Minervina, Ph.D., and Paul Thomas, Ph.D., all with St. Jude Immunology

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. This virus has created an ongoing pandemic. Vaccines are available to help block the virus from causing the disease. 

One type of vaccine is the mRNA vaccine. Scientists at St. Jude and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are studying how the immune system responds to mRNA vaccination.

The team created a way to study the T cells. This method is called reverse epitope discovery. The process uses T-cell receptors to guide the scientists to pieces of the virus that the immune system identifies most often. 

The team used samples from Washington University and the St. Jude Tracking of Viral and Host Factors Associated with COVID-19  cohort. The cohort is made up of St. Jude employee volunteers. They agreed to let scientists monitor their immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination.

The findings suggest that some aspects of the immune response to mRNA vaccines remain robust six months after vaccination. 

“Our study lays out a new way of discovering what the T-cell responses are directed against in SARS-CoV-2, and found a surprisingly large T-cell response that is likely shared by over half the world,” said Paul Thomas, Ph.D., Immunology

Cell published this work. 

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