"Innate immunity describes the defenses that we're are born with; they're coded in our genes. In contrast, we develop the antibodies of our acquired immune system over time as we're exposed to bacteria and viruses," said Dr. Beverly Dale, professor in the University of Washington Department of Oral Biology, School of Dentistry, and scientific director of the UW Comprehensive Center for Oral Health Research. "It's when our innate defenses fail that the acquired immune system picks up the slack."
The innate immune system has some remarkable characteristics, including the ability to distinguish between harmless and harmful bacteria. For example, disease-causing and harmless, or commensal, bacteria trigger the activation of beta-defensins through different chemical signaling pathways. The role of commensal bacteria may be to alert the immune system to the possible presence of invading bacteria, according to Dale.
The mouth is "a perfect place to study the innate immune system because it's such an incredibly complex and challenging ecological system," Dale said. "Our mouth is full of moist surfaces, perfect for bacteria to adhere to; we feed these bacteria at regular intervals with nutritious foods and snacks." As a result, and despite efforts to brush them away, we have millions of bacteria in our mouths, according to Dale. "Yet most of us remain healthy--without infections--most of the time."
Dale and colleagues from the Comprehensive Center for Oral Health Research, Dr. Richard Darveau of the departments of Periodontics and Oral Biology, and D
Contact: Walter Neary
University of Washington