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Study reveals protective role for specialized cells in intestinal and respiratory systems
Date:7/7/2014

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Ripping a page from the Star Trek script, specialized cells of the barrier that lines the inside of the intestines and airways of humans have invoked a biological version of Captain Kirk's famous command "shields up" as a first defense against invading microbes.

Research in the UCR School of Medicine laboratory of David Lo found that certain cells of the epithelium have a potentially important role in immune surveillance creating an electrostatic repulsion field to microbial invasion.

The study is featured on the cover of the July issue of Infection and Immunity, a journal published by the American Society for Microbiology. Co-authors of the study are Kaila M. Bennett, one of Lo's graduate students, and Sharon L. Walker, a UCR professor of chemical and environmental engineering.

The finding improves scientists' understanding of the densely packed protrusions resembling a carpet on the surface of some cells that line the insides of the intestines and respiratory system. The protrusions, which biologists call microvilli, increase the surface area of cells and have a role in absorbing nutrients, for instance.

But Lo's laboratory has found that the microvilli actually repel negatively charged bacteria and viruses, suggesting a protective "shield" akin to the force field that envelops the Enterprise in the plots of many "Star Trek" television episodes and movies.

"This is a whole new way of looking at immune surveillance in the epithelium of the human gut and airway," sai
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Contact: Kathy Barton
kathryn.barton@ucr.edu
951-827-4598
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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