How does the immune system react to pathogens?

Weinheim. May 23, 2014. The immune system is always in action. Viruses and bacteria attempt to penetrate the body – day and night. However the body's defense mechanisms work so effectively that most infections go largely unnoticed.  This is due to a particular type of immune cell – the so-called T-cell. If an immune reaction is necessary, such cells begin to increase in number so they can react quickly and for a long period of time against pathogens. They work against disease and prevent it occurring. When a T-cell comes across a pathogen for the first time, it divides several times. Transient effector cells and persistent memory cells arise that recognize and are able to combat the pathogen quickly and effectively.

The physicist, Dr. Michael Floßdorf, has conducted research in the life sciences field into how and in which order these two types of cell occur. His findings have been published in a scientific study "Stochastic T-cell fate decisions." He combined mathematical models and statistical analyses resulting from experimental data. The outcome is an important basis for the development of vaccines or the treatment of disease such as cancer.

As a result, Dr. Floßdorf received the Karl-Freudenberg-Prize awarded on May 24 at the Heidelberg Academy of Science.

"New insights in the fields of science and research form the basis of future innovations," explains Dr. Jörg Böcking, Chief Technology Officer of the Freudenberg Group. "As an innovative and globally-active company, the Freudenberg Group supports young scientists who make a decisive contribution to natural sciences." The Karl-Freudenberg-Prize was awarded at the Heidelberg Science Academy's annual celebration. The award winners presented their work to the public on May 24.

"The Karl-Freudenberg-Prize is an acknowledgement of work"
"The award represents an acknowledgement of my scientific work," according to Dr. Floßdorf. "Furthermore it gives me the opportunity to show the broader public how exciting the application of math and physical methods is in life sciences." According to Dr. Floßdorf, the work proves that following contact with pathogens, slow-dividing precursor memory cells arise from naive T-cells. These memory cells then develop into fast-dividing effector cells. How far the T-cells come in this process is random. Until now there had been various theories for the process of T-cell differentiation in the body which had not yet been proven.