Monday, December 10, 2012

As a University of Iowa Master’s student, Matthew Martin made a novel finding concerning the inherent differences between naïve CD8 T cells and memory CD8 T cells during the human body’s immune response.

Martin, a 2011 Master’s Degree recipient in the Department of Pathology, examined the differences in the CD8 T cell’s ability to proliferate and its ability to generate long-lived genetic offspring of naïve and primary memory cells.  

A naïve CD8 T cell has not been exposed to an antigen. Antigen is short for “antibody generator.” Antibodies are proteins made by cells in the body to identify and neutralize foreign bodies such as bacteria or cancer cells.

Once exposed to an antigen, the cell becomes a memory cell—the first step in developing learned immunity to an infectious agent. CD8 T cells play an essential role in the control of infection and tumor surveillance.

“We showed that one naïve cell is going to undergo more expansion in number than one memory cell, so a naïve cell is going to generate more cells when the immune response is going on than one memory cell,” says Martin. “This is different than what has been seen before in the field.”

Martin showed that naïve CD8 T cells, primed in the presence of a memory response, undergo a small magnitude of expansion, and they differentiate into functional memory CD8 T cells at an accelerated rate. These results advance the knowledge of memory CD8 T cells and will have important implications for the design of vaccines aimed at eliciting protective memory CD8 T cells.

This significant research distinguished Martin’s thesis, “Naïve and Memory CD8 T Cell Responses after Antigen-Stimulation in Vivo.”

Based on his excellence in research, Martin was awarded the L.B. Sims Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award by the Graduate College.

In summer 2011, Martin began as a Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology. His master’s and doctoral mentor is Vladimir Badovinac, assistant professor of pathology and faculty member in the Immunology Graduate Program. 

“The (L.B. Sims Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award) is a nice honor for me, and for Vladimir, and for the Department of Pathology,” Martin says.

The L.B. Sims Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award is named for Leslie B. Sims, who was Graduate College dean, associate provost for graduate education, and vice provost at the University of Iowa from 1991 to 2001.

The award is presented annually to recognize the excellent scholarship and research that is carried out by University of Iowa graduate students pursuing Master's degrees—a group with fewer opportunities for such recognition than students pursuing doctoral degrees.

As the winner of the L. B. Sims Award, Martin received a $500 honorarium and a certificate from the Graduate College. In addition, the Graduate College submitted his thesis as the institution's nomination for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Thesis Award.