An average of 20 registered patients die every day waiting for transplants, due to the shortage of matching donor organs. More than 110,000 people are currently waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. alone. Currently, only one in 20,000 donors are a match for a patient waiting for a transplant.
These grim statistics drive scientists like Anthony W. De Tomaso, assistant professor of biology at UCSB, to delve into the cellular biology of immune responses. His studies of the sea squirt shed light on the complicated issue of organ rejection. The latest results are published online today in the journal Immunity.
De Tomaso hopes to understand how it might be possible to "tune" the body's immune response in order to dial down the rejection of a donated organ. Studying cellular responses in simple organisms may also eventually help with autoimmune diseases –– those in which the body mistakenly attacks itself.
"Right now, when you get a transplant, you're usually on immunosuppressives your whole life," said De Tomaso. "And that's like sort of kicking your immune system in the teeth. What if we could raise the threshold of when you would respond, instead of just shutting the whole system off?"
De Tomaso and his research team study Botryllus schlosseri, a type of sea squirt. This small organism –– known as a tunicate because of its covering, or "tunic" –– is a modern day descendant of the vertebrate ancestor, the group to which we belong. Tunicates begin life as swimming tadpoles with primitive backbones, nerves, and musculature that are similar to all vertebrates, but soon transform into stationary creatures. Tunicates latch onto intertidal surfaces and look like flat flowers –– with each "petal" being a separate, but genetically identical, body.De Tomaso focuses on what happens when one sea squirt lands next to another. In this case, cells in the sea squirt's fingerlike edges, or "ampullae," recognize the neighboring sea squirt as "self" or "non-self." When the other sea squirt is related, then the two colonies fuse; otherwise, they reject each other. De Tomaso was involved in identifying the gene controlling the choice between fusion and rejection in the sea squirt when he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University.
De Tomaso explained that he decided to work on Botryllus because it has a unique way to answer a very complicated question. He hopes to understand the process of rejection or acceptance. "If we could manipulate that process," said Tomaso, "then we could basically teach the immune system to simply ignore certain things. We could say, 'Just don't respond to this. We're going to transfer this bone marrow, just don't kill this bone marrow.' Bone marrow could get in and start making new blood, and it would be fine. To me, that's the most exciting thing long-term for the work."
Tanya R. McKitrick is the first author on the paper. She works in De Tomaso's lab at UCSB and also at Stanford University. Other co-authors are Christina C. Muscat, Stanford University; James D. Pierce, UCSB; and Deepta Bhattacharya, Washington University School of Medicine.
Note to Editors: Anthony De Tomaso can be reached at (805) 893-7276, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Downloadable photos are available at http://www.ia.ucsb.edu/pa/display.aspx?pkey=2463#description.
Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
When fat cells change their colour
28.10.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH
Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.
So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
28.10.2016 | Life Sciences