The immune system’s ability to remember defeated disease-causing germs and prevent subsequent infections remains incompletely understood, but a study in Science Immunology clarifies an important piece of the picture. Rutgers researchers used specially bred mice to distinguish the functions of two types of immune cells, known as tissue-resident memory T cells (TRM cells), that protect against infection and cancer. Their work may help improve vaccine efficacy and combat a variety of autoimmune diseases.

“Understanding what each TRM cell type does allows us to formulate vaccines that generate the most effective type of TRM cell to combat a given infection, and our previous work suggests we can modify vaccines to shift the balance of these two cell types,” said Tessa Bergsbaken, an assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the senior author of the study. “TRM cells are not always beneficial. Certain autoimmune disorders can be driven by TRM cells, and we think what we’ve learned will also help us discover how these cells can turn against us.” To read the full story.