“Immunosequencing of T cells, combined with machine learning techniques, may enable scientists to predict which patients will have early, strong protection against hepatitis B infection following vaccination.” That is the conclusion of a study performed and co-ordinated by the academic (University of Antwerp) scientific advisors and co-founders of ImmuneWatch. The study is published in the academic journal eLife.
“Some people have pre-existing memory CD4 T cells that recognise pathogens or vaccine antigens that they haven’t even been exposed to before. We wanted to find out if having pre-existing memory CD4 T cells that recognise the hepatitis B vaccine surface antigen helps individuals develop immunity after vaccination,” explains George Elias, who worked on the study while he was a PhD student at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute, University of Antwerp, Belgium. Elias is a co-first author of the study alongside Esther Bartholomeus (University of Antwerp) and Pieter Meysman, who also acts as CTO/co-founder of ImmuneWatch.
To answer this question, the team recruited 34 people who had never been exposed to hepatitis B or vaccinated against it. They collected blood samples from these individuals before and after they were given two doses of the hepatitis B vaccine. They then used next-generation sequencing and machine learning methods to analyse the memory CD4 T cells in these individuals before vaccination and at three time points following vaccination.
“Our analysis has uncovered a role for pre-existing memory CD4 T cells in mounting a quick and powerful immune response to the hepatitis B vaccine,” concludes Benson Ogunjimi, Co-Founder and Biomedical Coordinator of the Antwerp Unit for Data Analysis and Computation in Immunology and Sequencing (AUDACIS), and a co-senior author of the study alongside Viggo Van Tendeloo and Kris Laukens (AUDACIS). “We’ve shown that pre-existing memory CD4 T cells could affect the outcome of vaccination, which may have significant implications for immunity and vaccine development efforts.”
Read the manuscript here.
Ogunjimi and his co-authors have launched a company based on the next-generation sequencing methods described in this work. ImmuneWatch works to provide in-depth sequencing and analysis of the human T-cell response, and aims to transform this data into clinically actionable insights for the development of improved vaccines and immune therapies.