Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tryptophan no turkey in boosting immune system

04.11.2005


Tryptophan is the source of Thanksgiving legend and grist for a "Seinfeld" episode, but it’s not the chemical that you’d expect to find in Lawrence Steinman’s lab.



A professor of neurology and neurological sciences and chair of the immunology program, Steinman, MD, and his lab generally focus on high-tech genetic therapies for diseases of the brain and nervous system. But his latest paper, to be published in the Nov. 4 issue of Science, breaks new ground on the effects of tryptophan - an amino acid found in turkey, among other foods, that is rumored to cause extreme post-Thanksgiving-feast sleepiness. It was featured in "Seinfeld" as a way for Jerry to knock out a woman by feeding her turkey so he could play with her classic toy collection.

The myth of tryptophan in turkey causing inordinate sleepiness has been debunked (tryptophan only works on the brain when ingested on an empty stomach). But the amino acid itself does play a vital role in sleep and in control of mood. And Steinman’s findings add to the growing body of evidence indicating that tryptophan plays a pivotal role in the immune system.


In an animal model, Steinman’s group has found that certain tryptophan metabolites - molecules formed as the body breaks down the amino acid - work as well as any other existing medicines to alleviate multiple sclerosis symptoms. In multiple sclerosis, the immune system launches an attack against the myelin sheath, the fatty cells that insulate neurons. The resulting variety of neurological disorders affects more than 2.5 million people worldwide.

Soothing the overactive immune system of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis requires something that can suppress the attack. In their studies, the team discovered that a drug chemically similar to metabolized tryptophan is suppressive to the immune system. This drug, marketed as tranilast, has been used abroad in clinical trials for other indications and appears safe.

"The bigger message here is that diet and immunity are inextricably linked," said Steinman. The intersection between diet and the immune system has not been well-studied, he said, "but now all of a sudden we have this really interesting science that ties tranilast up with tryptophan, underscoring the remarkable effect diet can have on immunity."

For all his current enthusiasm, Steinman was a reluctant entrant into the world of tryptophan research. When one of the lead authors, German postdoctoral researcher Michael Platten, MD, PhD, approached Steinman in 2002 with his idea to try tranilast in Steinman’s models of multiple sclerosis, Steinman thought it was one of the worst project proposals he had ever heard. The drug wasn’t invented at Stanford and was already being used for a range of maladies. Steinman prefers to create his own therapies.

But Platten had his own funding through the privately held Australian company Angiogen Pharmaceuticals, so Steinman was game to see where the idea could go. None of the Stanford researchers have any financial ties to the company. Michael Selley, MD, Angiogen Pharmaceuticals’ CEO and founder, is listed as one of the paper’s 13 co-authors.

Platten and Peggy Ho, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Steinman’s lab, performed a rigorous series of experiments using mouse cells and a mouse model of multiple sclerosis called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, or EAE. The team detailed the effect of four tryptophan metabolites as well as tranilast, a synthetic derivative of tryptophan.

The researchers found that all of the chemicals alleviated symptoms of mice with EAE. They also found that if they injected EAE mice with immune cells from other mice that had been protected with treatment, they could transfer the protective effect of the tryptophan metabolites. "That was a very powerful result," said Ho. "I had been skeptical of this project, but I was amazed when I saw that."

Transference of protection indicates that the treatment might trigger regulatory T cells, cells that suppress immune response rather than activate it. Steinman admitted that the only explanations of this phenomenon currently amount to "hand waving."

"One of the questions that is bound to come up with all this is, ’So, doctor, if I eat a lot of this or that, can I cure my autoimmune disease?’" said Steinman. "Even though many of the things we study in the lab, like tryptophan, modulate the immune system, are there practical things you can do in your diet to make a difference? My answer to that is ’I don’t know.’"

Steinman speculated that given the proven safety record of tranilast, as well as its apparent ability to suppress autoimmune diseases, it might be a practical way to achieve the benefits of tryptophan breakdown products without the complications of manipulating tryptophan consumption.

Mitzi Baker | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu
http://mednews.stanford.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>