New Study Identifies Role of Infection-Fighting Cells in Inflamed and Damaged Tissue

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Researchers from University of California – Riverside studied the secretion of the immune protein RELMalpha that is triggered in the body to protect body tissue from infection.

According to a report by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2017, hookworms infect around 430 million people worldwide. The prevalence of the hookworm-induced infection is high in countries where sanitation is poor, and people often walk barefoot. The immune system reacts critically to a hookworm-induced infection and the response results in damaged tissues. However, the mechanism behind the damage and eventual recovery was not yet fully understood. Now, researchers from University of California – Riverside analyzing a mouse model found that secretion of the immune protein RELMalpha is triggered in the body to protect tissue, following infection.

The mice produced super-killer macrophages when RELMalpha from immune cells was turned-off. These super-killer macrophages are important cells of the immune system formed in response to an infection that attached to the hookworm in far greater numbers. However, increased tissue damage and inflammation in the host is caused by the macrophages without RELMalpha. RELMalpha belong to a family of resistin-like molecules (RELM) that are secreted by mammals and highly expressed in infectious and inflammatory diseases. The researchers observed that the immune system kills the hookworms more efficiently without RELMalpha. Downregulating inflammation by RELMalpha delays the mouse’s ability to kill the hookworms and protects the mouse from excessive tissue damage and inflammation.

The cells of the immune system, called as migratory chemokines stimulate the movement of other cells and secrete the super-killer macrophages that allow them to efficiently find the worms. Abundance of adhesion proteins that allow them to better adhere to the worms is produced by macrophages along with abundance of toxic chemicals that enable them to kill the worm. The findings highlight the reason behind the use of hookworms in therapy to address celiac disease. The research was published in Journal of Leukocyte Biology on July 10, 2018.

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