By studying how mice fight off infection by intestinal worms a condition that affects more than 1 billion people worldwide scientists have discovered that the immune system is more versatile than has long been thought. The work with worms is opening a new avenue of exploration in the search for treatments against autoimmune diseases like diabetes and asthma, where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues.
The findings, reported by scientists who performed the work at the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and who are now at the University of Rochester Medical Center, appear in the March issue of the journal Immunity. The article was published online Feb. 26.
The research focuses mainly on B cells, one of many types of immune cells that the body maintains to fight off invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Besides B cells, there are T cells, macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes, mast cells and others, all working in concert to keep an organism healthy. The cells cruise our bodies, looking to eliminate infectious threats before they become a serious risk to our health.
For many years, scientists believed that the major job of B cells was to identify foreign invaders and tag them with antibodies, marking the microbe for destruction by the immune system. But scientists are discovering that B cells do much more, resulting in new information about our immune system that could be useful for developing more effective vaccines and better treatments for many types of disease.
In the past few years, Frances Lund, Ph.D., professor of Medicine in the Division of Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has found an array of unexpected functions for B cells. In the laboratory, she has found that B cells produce chemical signaling molecules known as cytokines that spur other immune cells in the body to action. Her team has also shown that B cells are crucial for presenting
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center