ImmunoHorizons (IH) was conceived as an American Association of Immunologists journal that could capture our immunology stories that aren’t quite ready for a journal with a requirement for a more detailed analysis. But what we’re publishing is still very important. Not every finding is monumental. Often we’ll start out in a direction that is wisely abandoned after some initial experiments, but those incremental findings and initial observations can be important in providing information for the community and for avoiding problems and pitfalls that other researchers might encounter.
That philosophy provides a large pool of work to grow our journal in the coming years. Last year my laboratory published an IH article comparing the efficiency of two IL-9 reporter mice, addressing the long unanswered question of “How much expression would a reporter report, if a purported reporter could report as reported?” (1) Although the study did not have a major finding beyond that descriptive comparison, it highlighted some of the limitations of various reporter models, and hopefully, it will be a resource for anyone performing future IL-9–based reporter experiments. Here’s what else we’ve published and what we would like to attract in the future.
Mice with minimal phenotypes
In a perfect world, every model we develop would give the results that we want—on the first try. Of course, we don’t live in that world and there are a myriad of reasons why models don’t behave as predicted, ranging from genetic redundancy to genes simply not being involved in a pathway or response as predicted. However, if those descriptive studies are performed well, even with a minimal phenotype, that work has value to the community. Think of IH as a birth announcement column for your “children” who didn’t turn out exactly as you wanted them (2).
High-throughput sequencing analysis has made a lasting impact on immunology. The advancement of single-cell analyses using both transcriptomic and proteomic (mass cytometry and spectral) approaches will generate even more exciting data sets, but an extensive bioinformatics analysis is often beyond the scope of a journal where the data first appear. IH can provide a forum for more detailed analyses that answer additional questions. That forum can also present useful findings in a digestible format for those interested readers who are not bioinformaticians (3).
Reagents and techniques
Every laboratory is an expert in something, and whether that expertise lies in a certain technique, a new reagent, or a method to optimize an existing approach, IH can help to share that knowledge.
Treatments with modest effects
The dawn of checkpoint therapy and chimeric Ag receptor T cells in the clinic was not only a revolution in medical treatment but also reminded every medical school dean across the country that immunology actually was important for something. As immunology-based treatments for cancer and other diseases have become mainstream, immunology as a therapeutic has expanded rapidly as a laboratory focus. However, not every target will be revolutionary, and not every combination of immunology-based and other approaches will have a significant effect. IH will publish those findings and help to share with the research community what works and what doesn’t (4).
Stepping away from the mouse
Mice have long been the model of choice for immunology because of the availability of reagents, the ease of manipulation, and the relative low cost, but often observations in another model can have a significant impact, possibly because disease in another model might more accurately predict disease in patients, even with the limitations of systems where reagents might not be as sophisticated. IH can be the farm for those studies so the work is not put out to pasture.
The effects of biological variables
Biological variables are not limited to the paragraph you write in your National Institutes of Health grant applications. Sex, diet, animal housing conditions, and microbiome are important factors that can influence experimental outcomes. Comparative studies on these variables would be of broad use to the community (5).
The ancillary and supplementary
Often, when pursuing a project, researchers will choose one direction over another, and yet, there will be substantial data generated from a path not pursued to greater detail that either aren’t published or possibly end up as an unfortunately ignored supplemental figure in a higher impact report. IH can be the main target to share those abandoned but substantial projects.
The main requirements for publication in IH are that the science is sound, the conclusions of the study appropriately supported, and that the report says something novel. The impact of that novelty is not being judged; we simply want articles that report on something that hasn’t been published before. With that, we ask you to take a look at your notebooks, and if you identify a study that has been sitting dormant and seems not worth following up, to consider submitting it to IH today.