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Vaccines (Basel). 2019 Nov 13;7(4). pii: E181. doi: 10.3390/vaccines7040181.

A PBMC-Based System to Assess Human T Cell Responses to Influenza Vaccine Candidates In Vitro.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, 9713AV Groningen, The Netherlands.
Department of Pharmaceutical Technology and Biopharmacy, University of Groningen, 9713AV Groningen, The Netherlands.


Vaccine development is an expensive and time-consuming process that heavily relies on animal models. Yet, vaccine candidates that have previously succeeded in animal experiments often fail in clinical trials questioning the predictive value of animal models. Alternative assay systems that can add to the screening and evaluation of functional characteristics of vaccines in a human context before embarking on costly clinical trials are therefore urgently needed. In this study, we have established an in vitro system consisting of long-term cultures of unfractionated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy volunteers to assess (recall) T cell responses to vaccine candidates. We observed that different types of influenza vaccines (whole inactivated virus (WIV), split, and peptide vaccines) were all able to stimulate CD4 and CD8 T cell responses but to different extents in line with their reported in vivo properties. In-depth analyses of different T cell subsets revealed that the tested vaccines evoked mainly recall responses as indicated by the fact that the vast majority of the responding T cells had a memory phenotype. Furthermore, we observed vaccine-induced activation of T follicular helper cells, which are associated with the induction of humoral immune responses. Our results demonstrate the suitability of the established PBMC-based system for the in vitro evaluation of memory T cell responses to vaccines and the comparison of vaccine candidates in a human immune cell context. As such, it can help to bridge the gap between animal experiments and clinical trials and assist in the selection of promising vaccine candidates, at least for recall antigens.


T cells; T follicular helper cells; WIV; in vitro; influenza; peptides; split; vaccines

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