ToWards Immunisations that Last: the Immunology andGerontology of Helper T cells (TWILIGHT)

Study code

Lead researcher
Dr Michelle Linterman

Study type
Participant re-contact

Institution or company
Babraham Institute

Researcher type

Speciality area

Recruitment Site


When we are infected with microbes such as the influenza virus, our immune system
activates a number of mechanisms. The aim is to both clear the infection as quickly as
possible, but also prevent us becoming infected in future. The immune system produces a number of white blood cells that can recognise the virus if it is seen again, and set up a much more rapid response to clear the virus before the infection takes hold. One of the best ways our immune system has of doing this is to produce antibodies, small proteins that recognise the virus and stick to the surface of the virus itself, or the cell of the body that is infected by it, and ‘flag-up’ the infection to the other white blood cells. This means that infections are recognised more rapidly and therefore the immune response to infection begins much more quickly.

As we get older, the system we have for recognising viruses and producing antibodies
doesn’t work as well and for this reason older people are routinely vaccinated to boost the immune system and try to prevent severe infections (for example the annual flu vaccination). Unfortunately, this is not always successful and it is not clear which parts of the immune system are responding poorly to the vaccination.

In this study, we are interested in looking at the white blood cells that are involved in producing these antibodies, and how these white blood cells change with age, and what these changes mean for the way the immune system works. It is our hope that this research will help us to develop strategies to improve immune function in the later years of life.

Participation: For this study 20 people over the aged between 16 and 60 came to the Cambridge BioResource to give a 50ml blood sample.

Organisation: This study was organised by Dr Michelle Linterman of the Babraham Institute and will be run at Addenbrooke`s Hospital.