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Researchers in Montréal and the US create model of key immune-system component

Researchers at Université de Montréal, working with teams at Massachusetts General Hospital and Johns Hopkins University, have made a major breakthrough in understanding an essential aspect of the immune system. For the first time, using a systems biology approach, they have developed a model that facilitates the study of the function of the phagosome. The phagosome is the organelle responsible for the destruction of infectious pathogens that cause such diseases as tuberculosis and salmonellosis, as well as pathogens that could be used in bioterrorism. The results of their study were published this week in the prestigious journal Nature.

Infectious diseases remain one of the main causes of death in the world, and the phenomenon of antibiotic resistant bacteria worsens the situation each year. Thanks to the model developed by teams led by Michel Desjardins of the Department of Pathology and Cellular Biology at Université de Montréal, Drs Lynda Stuart and Alan Ezekowitz at the Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, and Dr Joel Bader of the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, it will now be possible to better understand the complex interactions that govern the functioning of the phagosome.

"We have taken a crucial step here," Prof. Desjardins explains. "We can now reach a better understanding of the molecular processes involved in infections by using a global approach based on proteomics and genomics. This approach will expedite development of therapies and the production of new vaccines. The major investments made in recent years in proteomics research in Québec and Canada have enabled us to pool our resources and apply promising new approaches like systems biology."

As Dr. Stuart explains, "Phagocytes are immune system cells that internalize, kill, and digest bacteria within an intracellular compartment called the phagosome, a major battleground in the host-pathogen conflict.
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Source:University of Montreal


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