When someone gets a bacterial infection, the human body mounts a complex set of reactions aimed at destroying the invader. The role of what is called the innate immune system -- one of the most basic aspects of the overall immune response -- is to sound the alarm and jump start the body's response to pathogens. Researchers have known that key components of innate immunity are conserved across a variety of animals, and now scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have shown that these same elements are used by the lowly worm as well. The findings, published in the July 26 issue of Science, suggest that scientists will now be better able to tease out the details of innate immunity across a wide range of species.
"Innate immunity plays a central role in the initial encounter with foreign pathogens and is thus critical to the host's defense against infection," says co-lead author Dennis Kim, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Molecular Biology. "But derangement of the innate immune system is implicated in the pathogenesis of overwhelming infections, as well as in chronic inflammatory diseases. We anticipate that learning about fundamental aspects of the innate immune system may lead to therapies for these conditions." Because innate immunity is conserved among most animals, scientists have been studying it in the laboratory using insect models. This new report gives researchers another tool.
"The C. elegans nematode worm is more primitive than an insect, and it's an excellent model organism that has provided scientists with insights into development and other basic biological processes. We hope that our study provides the basis for now using the worm to study immune function," says principal investigator Frederick Ausubel, PhD, of the MGH Department of Molecular Biology.
Ausubel's team has previously noted that human pathogens, such as certain bacteria, can also kill C. elegans. So Ausubel, Kim and co-lead author Rhonda FeinbaumPage: 1 2 Related biology news :1
Contact: Susan McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital
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