Manufacturing and Engineering Science


17 July 2013 –

1. Scientists at A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) have discovered a new class of white blood cells in human lung and gut tissues that play a critical role as the first line of defence against harmful fungal and bacterial infections. This research will have significant impact on the design of vaccines and targeted immunotherapies for diseases caused by infectious microbes such as the hospital- acquired pneumonia.

2. The scientists also showed for the first time that key immune functions of this new class of white blood cells are similar to those found in mice. This means that findings in the mouse studies can be applied to develop advanced clinical therapies for the human immune system. The study done in collaboration with Newcastle University was published in the prestigious Immunity journal.

About the New Class of White Blood Cell Discovered

3. All immune responses against infectious agents are activated and regulated by dendritic cells (DCs), a specialised group of white blood cells which present tiny fragments from micro-organisms, vaccines or tumours to the T cells. T cells are immune cells that circulate around our bodies to scan for cellular abnormalities and infections. Of the different T cells, T helper 17 (Th17) cells specialise in activating a protective response crucial for our body to eliminate harmful bacteria or fungi.
4. In this study, the scientists identified a new subset of DCs (named CD11b+ DCs), which are capable of activating such protective Th17 response. They also showed that mice lacking the CD11b+ DCs were unable to induce the protective Th17 response against the Aspergillus fumigatus, one of the most common fungal species in hospital-acquired infections.
5. The team leader, Dr Florent Ginhoux from SIgN said, “As dendritic cells have the unique ability to ‘sense’ the type of pathogen present in order to activate the appropriate immune response, they are attractive targets to explore for vaccine development. This discovery revealed fresh inroads to better exploit dendritic cells for improved vaccine design against life-threatening fungal infections.”
6. Acting Executive Director of SIgN, Associate Professor Laurent Rénia said, “Life-threatening fungal infections have increased over the years yet treatment options remain limited. This study demonstrates how fundamental research that
deepens our understanding of the body’s immune system can translate into potential
clinical applications that could save lives and impact healthcare.”

Fluorescence microscopy reveals the newly discovered CD11b+ dendritic cells (green) amongst other white blood cells (orange and red) in the lung tissue (Image by Peter


Notes for editor:

The research findings described in this media release can be found in the 23 May issue of Immunity under the title, “IRF4 transcription factor-dependent CD11b+ dendritic cells in human and mouse control mucosal IL-17 cytokine responses” by Andreas Schlitzer1*, Naomi McGovern2*, Pearline Teo1, Teresa Zelante1, Koji Atarashi3, Donovan Low1, Adrian W.S. Ho1, Peter See1, Amanda Shin1, Pavandip Singh Wasan1, Guillaume Hoeffel1, Benoit Malleret1, Alexander Heiseke4, Samantha Chew1, Laura Jardine2, Harriet A. Purvis2, Catharien M.U. Hilkens2, John Tam5,6, Michael Poidinger1, E. Richard Stanley7, Anne B. Krug4, Laurent Renia1,
Baalasubramanian Sivasankar8, Lai Guan Ng1, Matthew Collin2, Paola Ricciardi-
Castagnoli1, Kenya Honda3, Muzlifah Haniffa2 and Florent Ginhoux1

1 Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), Agency for Science, Technology and

Research (A*STAR), 138648, Singapore.

2 Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2

4HH, UK.

3 Department of Immunology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.

4 II Medical Department, Klinikum Rechts der Isar, Technical University Munich, Ismaninger Str. 22, 81675 Munich, Germany.

5 National University Hospital, 119074, Singapore.

6 Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, 119077, Singapore.

7 Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of

Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.

8 Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and

Research (A*STAR), Singapore.
*These authors contributed equally to this work
Full text of the article can be accessed from


For media queries and clarifications, please contact: Dr. Sarah Chang
Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Tel: (65) 6826 6442

About the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN)

The Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), officially inaugurated on 15 January
2008, is a research consortium under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s Biomedical Research Council. The mandate of SIgN is to advance human immunology research and participate in international efforts to combat major health problems. Since its launch, SIgN has grown rapidly and currently includes 250 scientists from 26 different countries around the world working under 28 renowned principal investigators. At SIgN, researchers investigate immunity during infection and various inflammatory conditions including cancer and are supported by cutting edge technological research platforms and core services.
Through this, SIgN aims to build a strong platform in basic human immunology research for better translation of research findings into clinical applications. SIgN also sets out to establish productive links with local and international institutions, and encourage the exchange of ideas and expertise between academic, industrial and clinical partners and thus contribute to a vibrant research environment in Singapore. For more information about SIgN, please visit

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore‘s lead public sector agency that fosters world-class scientific research and talent to drive economic growth and transform Singapore into a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation driven economy.
In line with its mission-oriented mandate, A*STAR spearheads research and development in fields that are essential to growing Singapore‘s manufacturing sector and catalysing new growth industries. A*STAR supports these economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry.
A*STAR oversees 20 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their vicinity. These two R&D hubs, house a bustling and diverse community of local and international research scientists and engineers from A*STAR’s research entities as well as a growing number of corporate laboratories.
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