Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

To keep or not to keep a hookworm

30.03.2016

UC Riverside-led research team identifies key protein that by protecting the body from damage in hookworm infections ensures benefits outweigh risks

Researchers in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside have identified an immune protein in mice that is quickly triggered in the body following infection and serves to protect the body's tissues. Called "RELMalpha," this protein, whose homologue in humans is called "resistin," is responsible more for protecting the body than attacking the parasite.


Immunofluorescent image shows cross-section of hookworm (red) invading the small intestine (blue) leading to recruitment of macrophages (green).

Credit: Jay Patel, Nair lab, UC Riverside.

As mammals, we have an immune system to fight pathogens that attack us. Because pathogens do us damage, the body naturally releases proteins to kill the pathogens. But these cytokines--proteins made by immune cells--can also attack the body's tissues and damage them. RELMalpha, made by mice to dampen the immune system response, focuses on protecting the body's tissues. Resistin is expected to function similarly in humans.

"This is counterintuitive," said Meera G. Nair, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical sciences, whose lab led the research that focused on the hookworm as the parasite of study. "We think the immune system is all about killing the parasite. But that's not what RELMalpha sets out to do. It is important evidence that mammals have regulatory systems in place not to kill pathogens, but instead to dampen the immune response because this, overall, benefits the host."

Study results appear in the April 1 issue of the journal Infection and Immunity.

Hooked on worms

In her career, Nair has done considerable research on hookworms, soil-transmitted nematodes that infect an estimated 2 billion people worldwide--mostly in developing countries where sanitation is poor and people are often barefoot. After penetrating the skin, the hookworm--about 5 millimeters in length--travels from the bloodstream to the lung. Nair explained that the hookworm proceeds to damage the lung, the first organ it infects. When blood vessels break and hemorrhaging follows, the hookworm feeds on the blood (it cannot, however, survive in blood). When it is coughed up and swallowed, it then travels to the gut, the second organ it infects.

"The hookworm could not reach the gut if it didn't use the lung," Nair said. "In the gut, it releases thousands of eggs, which then go into the feces, completing the cycle. This is why infection is prevalent where lack of sanitation is also common, where, say, open defecation is practiced."

For their lab experiments, Nair's team used mice that were genetically deficient, meaning they lacked RELMalpha. The researchers then infected the mice with hookworms. The mice killed the worms but did not survive themselves, being unable to recover from the worm infection, which damaged their lungs.

When such genetically deficient mice were given a low dose of worms, the mice managed to kill the worms faster. But they incurred damage to their bodies. Were the mice to have RELMalpha, the researchers posit, their lung tissues would have been better protected.

Death versus worm burdens

"If you had a choice between having a parasite in your body or you dying from trying to kill it, you would choose to have the parasite live in your body," Nair explained. "Worm parasites are exceptionally good at that. They live with us for long periods without causing much damage. Essentially, a partnership is set up so that both the host and worm benefit. Worms, one of the most complex pathogens, have evolved to be the ideal parasite. They do not want you to die because that would mean they could not survive either. At doing this balancing act between inflammation and immunity, worms may be better than all other pathogens."

Nair noted that there are no vaccines available to fight worm infections. Unfortunately, distributing drugs for a disease that infects billions of people is costly and unfeasible, she said.

"RELMalpha appears to be the pivot on which the balance between inflammation and immunity is struck," she said. "This is likely true in humans as well, where resistin, the human equivalent of RELMalpha, is highly expressed in worm infections." The lab's next focus will be to investigate human resistin in this context.

###

Nair was joined in the research by Gang Chen (first author of the research paper), a principal scientist; Spencer H. Wang, a junior specialist at UCR; Jessica C. Jang, a UCR graduate student; and Justin I. Odegaard, a pathologist at UC San Francisco.

Nair was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, specifically the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She has been invited to speak at the prestigious Gordon Research Conference on Tropical Infectious Diseases, which will be held next year in Galveston, Texas.

The University of California, Riverside (http://www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

Media Contact

Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050

 @UCRiverside

http://www.ucr.edu 

Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution
09.12.2016 | Veterans Affairs Research Communications

nachricht Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks
08.12.2016 | Penn State

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>