The Epic Discovery of Epitopes

By Lushna Mehra

A new study has been published that could provide beneficial insight on improvements for immunotherapy and vaccine development. Cells work to break down proteins from our bodies and from foreign bodies. Immune system cells, in particular, scan the proteins using their epitopes, which are patterns of proteins on the surface of cells that are used to determine whether a body is foreign or not. If a protein is deemed foreign, the immune cell destroys the foreign cell in order to keep the body safe from infection.

The researchers of a new study, led by Dr. Juliane Leipe and Dr. Michele Mishto, have discovered that nearly 1/3 of displayed epitopes are a specific type of epitope known as ‘spliced,’ which was previously thought to be a rare epitope. A new cell mapping method has allowed the researchers to identify these epitopes throughout the body as a large portion of the proteins that immune cells identify. This allows for a more comprehensive disease detection system in the body. Researchers may now use this information to find ways to enhance the immune system by targeting these new epitopes for treatment, though it may make personalized medicine approaches more difficult.


Imperial College London. (2016, October 20). Overlooked molecules could revolutionize our understanding of the immune system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2016 from