Researchers out of Korea have identified in a study that a person’s protective immune memory T cells generated while recovering from a COVID-19 infection lasts over ten (10) months. The study is purportedly the world’s first one to investigate the development of stem-cell-like memory cells related to the novel coronavirus. The immune cells that develop post recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection were evaluated by Professors Shin Eui-chul at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering and Choi Won-seok at Korean University Ansan Hospital. Jung Hye-won at Chungbuk National University Hospital led the study.
While many suspected that memory T-cells as well as neutralizing antibodies form the basis of COVID-19 protective immunity, researchers haven’t been clear on what the sustainability of memory T cells is. Thus, in this study, the research team conducted a follow-up study after 10 months in subjects recovering from the coronavirus in Korea.
In this study, reported in KAIST News, the investigators employed the most advanced immunology research methods to analyze the characteristics and maintenance period of memory T cells as well as stem-cell-like cells and multifunctional memory T cells.
The group confirmed that in most patients, regardless of the severity of the underlying coronavirus infection, they continue to produce memory T cells. They noted even after 10 months that if the memory T-cell interfaces with the COVID-19 virus antigen that they interact, multiply, and trigger protective immune functions, activating multifunctional T cells in parallel.
Interestingly, and what looks to be novel findings, the Korean research group noted that patients that recovered from COVID-19 actually developed stem cell-like memory T cells, which also possess a regenerative function bolstering memory T cells for a much longer duration.
Investigator Point of View
“As the world’s longest-running study of memory T cell function and characteristics in patients recovering from COVID-19, the study is meaningful in that it has laid the foundation for designing a next-generation vaccine development strategy through time-dependent protective immunity analysis,” Professors Shin said.
As it turns out, “This study is the world’s longest longitudinal study on differentiation and functions of memory T cells among COVID-19 convalescent patients. The research on the temporal dynamics of immune responses has laid the groundwork for building a strategy for next-generation vaccine development,” Professor Shin added. This work was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation and KAIST, and was published in Nature Communications on June 30.
- Professor Shin Eui-chul at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering
- Choi Won-seok at Korean University Ansan Hospital
- Jung Hye-won at Chungbuk National University Hospital
Call to Action: The Korean group will investigate how the memory T cell formation works in those currently vaccinated as well as compare memory T cells with those who have recovered naturally from COVID-19.