Answering one of the oldest questions in human physiology, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered why the body's immune system - perpetually on guard against foreign microbes like bacteria – doesn't attack tissues in the small intestine that harbor millions of bacteria cells.
In a study in the February issue of Nature Immunology, and which is currently available on the journal's Web site as an advanced online publication, investigators led by Shannon Turley, PhD, of Dana-Farber identify an unlikely group of peacemakers: lymph node cells that instruct key immune system cells to leave healthy tissue alone. The finding, which illuminates a previously unknown corner of the human immune system, may lead to new forms of treatment for autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
"We've discovered that cells not generally thought of as part of the immune system actually play an important role in protecting the intestine from immune system attack," says Turley. "Because the cells are found in lymph nodes throughout the body, they may offer a way of suppressing a variety of autoimmune diseases," which result from immune system assault on healthy tissue.
The immune system distinguishes between normal and foreign agents by small proteins, called antigens, on the cell surface. In parts of the body, such as the pancreas, that are sheltered from the outside environment, cells known as dendritic cells display the antigens of their normal neighbors in a way that puts the immune system "at ease." By reading those antigens without being on alert, the immune system's T cells learn that such cells are off-limits to attack.
For years, scientists have wondered whether the same mechanism is at work in tissues that come in regular contact with bacteria and other microbial organisms. The small intestine, for example, which absorbs essential nutrients from food and drink and protects the body from invasive microbes, is literally teeming with bacteria, which help break down waste. The presence of so many bacteria is a potential trigger for an immune system response. Why do T cells almost always ignore the small intestine, leaving this vital tissue unharmed?
"It's obvious that T cells must be able to ignore – or become 'tolerized' to – normal intestinal tissue," states Turley, who is also an assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. "But it has been unclear how dendritic cells, which are extremely sensitive to microbial agents such as bacteria, teach T cells to resist attacking healthy intestinal cells."
In the new study, Turley and her colleagues found that, in fact, dendritic cells aren't essential in creating tolerance in T cells. Instead, and unexpectedly, tolerance is produced by stromal cells from nearby lymph nodes. Although they aren't classified as "professional antigen-presenters," as dendritic cells are, the stromal cells serve the same purpose: exhibiting normal-cell antigens to the immune system.
"Our study points to a previously unknown mechanism of immune system tolerance," Turley explains. "When you think of the conditions in the small intestine, with so many millions of bacteria cells and so much opportunity for dendritic cells to stimulate an immune attack, it's remarkable that intestinal tissue is so rarely the target of an immune attack. Our findings demonstrate that the immune system has features that remain to be discovered."
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences