An ambitious effort has begun to decipher the genes and proteins making up the human immune system, and determine how they work.The Human Vaccines Project—a non-profit public-private partnership—and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are using the sequencing tools and analysis expertise of Illumina to support one of the Project’s two key programs, the Human Immunome Program, which aims to reveal for the first time the specific components of the human immune system, which prevent and control disease.
One hundred individuals will be studied within the next two years, a number set to grow to about 1,000 over an estimated five years. The Program has already completed preliminary analysis of the first three individuals, to refine the large-scale sequencing and complex bioinformatics strategies required for the program.
The Program will sequence the receptors of B and T immune cells from individuals of diverse ages, genders, genetics, geography, and disease states and results will be shared with researchers worldwide through an open-source database.
To date, researchers have collected samples from the first three participants, using leukapheresis to harvest some 40 billion blood B cells. The study sequenced all the genes of the B-cell and T-cell receptors from these individuals.
“The idea is to get a complete collection of all the immune genes that they’re using from their B and T cells. Now we have billions of sequences from each of the three individuals,” James Crowe Jr., M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center and lead investigator of the Human Immunome Program, told Clinical OMICs. “Based on these preliminary studies, we’re refining our approach and will soon be enrolling the next 7 to 10 persons into the study.”
The Program is attempting to identify and catalogue the principal components of the human immune system at the genetic level of healthy individuals, said Wayne C. Koff, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project.
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