The study of live immune cells is important for discovering how to treat and prevent disease but there have been no reliable methods for extracting immune cells and keeping them alive for study.  Dental researchers from Case Western Reserve University have developed a more reliable and less invasive method to remove live immune cells from the mouth to study how they naturally fight off infection and inflammation.

Use of Immune Cells

The researchers hope that by isolating specialized oral immune cells and studying how they fight infection and inflammation in the mouth, they can learn more about how to treat and prevent other diseases such as oral cancers, cardiovascular disease, AIDS, and others.  Previously, researchers had to study immune cells grown from blood but by studying tissue immune cells, they can observe how they react at the site of infection.  It is well known how immune cells in the stomach and intestines react but the role of immune cells in the mouth is not known.

The Problem with Oral Immune Cells

There have previously been no effective methods for extracting oral immune cells, which are easier to extract than immune cells in the stomach, and the oral immune cells that were extracted could not be isolated or grown well enough for study.  The lead author of this study, Pushpa Pandiyan, assistant professor of biological sciences at Case Western Reserve University, describes their new method of extraction for oral immune cells in the article “Isolation of T Cells from Mouse Oral Tissues” published in Biological Procedures Online.

Results of the Study

Pandiyan and her team of researchers sought to develop a way to isolate single immune cells from the tongue, gums, and palate and keep them alive to be studied.  They succeeded in isolating two specialized immune T lymphocytes that help fight against oral disease using mouse models.  The researchers accomplished this by extracting tissues from the mouths of mice and washing them in saline and chemical solutions with antibiotics.  The tissues were then disintegrated with salts and enzymes and this solution was strained to separate the tissue parts.  These tissue parts were washed and separated several more times before the immune cells could be grown for study.  According to their report, over 94 percent of the immune cells isolated lived long enough to be studied. The study of these oral immune cells may lead to discoveries on how to prevent dental problems such as gum disease.