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 email@example.com. Downloadable photos are available at http://www.ia.ucsb.edu/pa/display.aspx?pkey=2463#description.
Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
20.07.2017 | Information Technology
20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy