Research by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has provided new insights into the mechanism behind how our circadian 24-hour body clock influences our immune response to vaccines, depending on the time of day.
The magazine published in Nature communication investigated the changes taking place in the mitochondria of a key immune cell involved in the vaccine response and could help improve the design and timing of administration of future vaccines to maximize effectiveness.
It had previously been found that people react more strongly to certain vaccines depending on when the vaccine is administered, but the reason for this was not clear. This research has revealed that our circadian clock is changing the shape of mitochondria in dendritic cells. The variations in the structure of mitochondria affect how well dendritic cells function throughout the day.
Research author Professor Annie Curtis, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at RCSI said: “Our discovery has shed light on a crucial aspect of our body’s response to vaccination and highlights the importance of circadian rhythms in immunity. We can apply this understanding to the vaccine development. to ensure we get the maximum benefits from vaccination.”
The circadian clock in dendritic cells determines whether mitochondria form one of two shapes: long strands, “networks,” or broken into small point-like pieces. It is within the network formation that vaccination is most effective, as dendritic cells have a better ability to break the vaccine into small pieces for interaction with our immune cells (T cells). Within the study, researchers used an approach to induce the network phase, which could have implications for vaccine design, allowing us to optimize our immune response regardless of the time of day.
The bulk of this study was supported by funding from the Irish Research Council’s Science Foundation Ireland Career Development Award (CDA) program through a Laureate Award and an RCSI Strategic Academic Recruitment Program (StAR) award. Further support was provided by a Conacyt grant, an SFI Investigator Award and a European Research Council Consolidator Award.
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