Aarhus University Researchers Transplant Human Immune System into Mice for Study

Medical Research Scientist Examines Laboratory Mice and Looks on Tissue Samples under Microscope. She Works in a Light Laboratory.

Preclinical researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital have transplanted a human immune system into mice enabling the study of immune functions which otherwise would be difficult to study.

The Danish preclinical research succeeded in transplanting human stem cells into mice whose own immune system is disabled in what is out of a sci-fi movie. Amazingly, the researchers triggered a type of reaction in the immune system which normally reacts to meeting a range of viruses and bacteria.

STING (the Stimulator of Interferon Genes) 

The Aarhus University-led team triggered the induced reactions, at least partly, by the protein STING (the simulator of interferon genes), which can recognize the DNA of foreign microorganisms in infected cells and signal to the immune system that it should react to this and defend the body. The protein plays a role in connection with a number of conditions from cancer to a number of autoimmune diseases such as lupus and psoriasis, and also with viral and bacterial infections.

Research Comments

Anna Halling Folkmar Andersen, a Ph.D. student at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and one of the researchers behind the study noted “The humanized mice are an important tool in understanding how human immune cells behave during diseases and how they react to different medical treatments. So being able to show that it’s possible to study human STING in mice represents an important step. We hope that this will lead to better research into diseases that are related to STING.”

Hope for new treatments

STING is a central part of the innate immune system, and many researchers are currently looking closely at the protein.

“Within inflammatory research, STING is currently one of the great hopes. Around the world, researchers are working to understand how STING works, so it will be possible to utilize it in the development of a range of new treatments for a wide range of diseases,” says Anna Halling Folkmar Andersen.

Autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and lupus are characterized to be an overactive immune system and excessive STING activity, which is why researchers might be interested in studying the effects of curbing STING. On the other hand, others hope to be able to activate STING in cases of cancer diseases, as it could help to fight tumors more effectively. This is because the immune system becomes exhausted by cancer diseases, meaning that STING does not fight the disease by itself and therefore may need a boost in the form of immunotherapy to fight the disease.

Background for the results:

  • The study was carried out on mice with severely weakened immune systems which had human stem cells taken from the umbilical cord transplanted.
  • The study was conducted in collaboration with the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University.
  • The study is financed by Aarhus University Hospital, the Aarhus University Research Foundation, and the Lundbeck Foundation.
  • Read the article “cAIMP administration in humanized mice induces a chimerization-level-dependent STING response” in Immunology.

Lead Research/Investigator

Ph.D. student Anna Halling Folkmar Andersen 

Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine

Tel.: (+45) 2826 6946

Email: [email protected]