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Posted: October 21, 2013

Have scientists unlocked the flu's secret?

Stephen M. Katz
FILE PHOTO Damien Dancy puts masks on his children Damaya, 3, left, and Damien, 7, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, Va. Hospitals in Hampton Roads urged patients and visitors to wear a mask at their facilities to help stop the spread of the flu. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Stephen M. Katz)

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            Have scientists unlocked the flu's secret?
FILE PHOTO Damien Dancy puts masks on his children Damaya, 3, left, and Damien, 7, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, Va. Hospitals in Hampton Roads urged patients and visitors to wear a mask at their facilities to help stop the spread of the flu. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Stephen M. Katz)

By ELIZABETH HAGEDORN

With flu season upon us, a new study might’ve figured out exactly how the virus infects a person.

Researchers at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research used mice to examine the immune system’s response to the flu. (Via KSHB

Typically, the immune system works by identifying a virus when it enters the body and storing information about the virus in the memory B cells of the lungs. (Via NPR

But as HealthDay explains, these virus-specific memory B cells can be tough to isolate. In order to study them, “the researchers attached a fluorescent label to the flu virus, which allowed them to identify flu-specific B cells. They then used a cloning technique to create a line of mice with virus-specific B cells and cell receptors.”

“It kills the initial round of cells our immune system releases when a foreign body is present. That gives the virus time to replicate and flourish, before the second round of attack can begin.”  (Via WECT

In a news release, the researchers explained: “The virus targets memory cells in the lung, which allows infection to be established -- even if the immune system has seen this flu before.” (Via Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research)  

The researchers say they hope their findings can lead to more effective vaccines for the flu, as well as other types of viruses. They do caution, however, that research on mice doesn’t always translate to similar results in humans. (Via WILXWAWS)

That study can be found in the journal Nature. 

- See more at newsy.com


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