Findings may lead to new treatments for asthma and other inflammatory-related diseases
Cross-sections of the parasitic worm Trichuris in the lumen of the mouse gut (left). Trichuris lives partially embedded in host intestinal epithelial cells. Protective T helper cells secrete molecules called cytokines that induce cells in the gut to produce mucus (right, intestinal goblet cell, stained blue). This mucus production is typical of a Th2 response. In the case of the lung, this same type of response induces mucus production that contributes to breathing difficulties typically suffered during an asthma attack. The absence of this mucus response in mice lacking Notch is consistent with a role for this pathway in controlling Th2 inflammation.
Defects in immune system cells called T helper cells may lead to diseases characterized by a faulty inflammatory response such as autoimmunity and asthma. Understanding the molecular steps involved in how T helper cells mature may help researchers develop treatments for these diseases.
Helper T cells differentiate into two different types of cells –Th1 or Th2 – which are responsible for regulating immunity to different types of pathogens. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shed light on a key molecular switch in this differentiation.
Karen Kreeger | EurekAlert!
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