Stories tagged immune system

It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
"Reporting in the journal Science, Paul Kubes and colleagues filmed immune cells called neutrophils finding their way to a mouse's wounded liver. The researchers wanted to understand how neutrophils find injuries when bacteria aren't around to signal the damage."

Allergic to peanuts?
Allergic to peanuts?Courtesy texnic

What is food allergy?

Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body’s immune system. Symptoms include itching, a rash, vomiting, difficult breathing, and lowered blood pressure.

While almost 30% of Americans think they have food allergies, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) found that

food allergy occurs in 6 to 8 percent of children 4 years of age or under, and in 3.7 percent of adults.

Better testing for food allergies needed

Diagnosing food allergies is described on the Mayo Clinic website. The procedures take time and money and, according to many, yield unreliable results.
"MIT chemical engineer Christopher Love believes he has a better way to diagnose such allergies. His new technology, described in the June 7 issue of the journal Lab on a Chip, can analyze individual immune cells taken from patients, allowing for precise measurement of the cells’ response to allergens such as milk and peanuts.

To perform the test, blood must be drawn from the patient, and white blood cells (which include T cells) are isolated from the sample.

The cells are exposed to a potential allergen and then placed into about 100,000 individual wells arranged in a lattice pattern on a soft rubber surface. Using a technique known as microengraving, the researchers make “prints” of the cytokines produced by each cell onto the surface of a glass slide. The amount of cytokine secreted by each individual cell can be precisely measured. MITnews


T cell activation
T cell activationCourtesy NIH

Vitamin D necessary to fight disease

When members of our body's immune system called T cells encounter germs and viruses they change into "killer cells" and "helper cells".
A new study published today in Nature Immunology explains why Vitamin D is so important to our health.

"When a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device of 'antenna' known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin D," ...If there is an inadequate vitamin D level, they won't even begin to mobilize."

Most people lack enough Vitamin D

According to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that "77 percent of U.S. adults and teenagers surveyed did not have the estimated minimum healthful level of 30 nanograms per milliliter in their blood. And just three percent of blacks in the survey were getting enough of the vitamin."

Cod liver oil

While living with my parents, I was given a table spoon of cod liver oil, a bowl of oatmeal, and a half of an orange for breakfast each day. I might have to consider adding cod liver oil to my diet again (most people think it tastes nasty).


Yes, this is on the list too
Yes, this is on the list tooCourtesy tsweden
Check it out: it turns out that women have more powerful immune systems than men. (I include myself in the “men/boys” group.)

So, let’s see… if we’re arranging the list in terms of the order in which I’ve realized each one, then this new development falls at the end, right after “better resistance to sunburn” and “less likely to get testicular cancer.”

If the list is alphabetical (how nice and neat!), it goes between “more powerful backstroke” and “more powerful interpersonal skills.”

Despite my rabbit-killing-strength grip and my powerful stammer (each unlikely to be beaten by women as a whole), the bite of each item on the list burns like jalapeño scorpion stings.

It’s nice, then, that this new fact isn’t quite so painful to accept. See, I like getting sick. I want to get sick. In particular, I want to get the swine flu. My great-grandfather was beaten (i.e. killed) by the swine flu back in 1920 or so, and I’ve been aching for a rematch. Swine Flu vs. JGordon Round II: The Final Showdown: This Time it’s Personal: A Century-Old Family Feud Comes to Blows: To the Death!

Sure, I don’t actually want to die at all, but this disease needs to at least get a foothold in my system if we’re finally going to see who’s the bigger man. (Me, duh.)

If I were what we often call a “lady,” my powerful immune system would make the flu showdown less likely. So thank goodness that that’s not the case. My female body would be producing estrogen left and right, and that estrogen would be blocking the production of an enzyme called Caspase-12. Caspase-12, precious Caspase-12, is needed in my body, because it blocks my inflammatory processes. Inflammation is one of the body’s primary defenses against infection. Blood flow increases at the site of an injury or infection during inflammation, beginning the healing process and delivering structures that kill and absorb pathogens. And I don’t want that. I mean, if every time Evander Holyfield approached Mike Tyson’s boxing ring a flood of blood and plasma crushed Holyfield and washed him away, how would The Dynamite Kid ever have gotten the chance to prove who’s tougher? I want to let the swine flu into my ring, and then I want to bite its ear off and threaten to eat its children.

I’m leaving it up to my frail male body to arrange this fight.


Eat up!: Technically, these aren't the right kind of parasitic worms. But it couldn't hurt to have a few, right?
Eat up!: Technically, these aren't the right kind of parasitic worms. But it couldn't hurt to have a few, right?Courtesy Teseum
Finally, folks, we have yet another reason to get infected with parasitic worms!

Don’t get me wrong—there are already reasons that you should look into getting worms, plenty of reasons. The company, for one; you’re never alone when you’ve got worms, after all. And the excuse that you’re eating for two (or two hundred) is always useful at big dinners. And the day that “Hey, I have worms! Let’s kiss!” stops being an effective icebreaker at parties is the day I’m not interested in living any more.

And yet there will always be naysayers. Killjoys and health nuts, for whom no pro-worm argument seems to be adequate. Hey, worm-haters, guess who had worms. Your great grandparents, probably, and were they bad people?

In any case, the obstinate will soon have an even harder time ignoring the cold, hard face of reason.

It has been observed that in tropical regions where infection by a particular type of parasitic worm is common, auto-immune diseases—like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type-1 diabetes—are particularly uncommon. Scientsts, clever devils that they are, have figured out why this is.

Certains type of parasitic nematodes (nematodes are round worms) are capable of causing filariasis in their hosts. Among other things, filariasis causes elephantiasis. Elephantiasis for those of you blocking out memories, elephantiasis (often misheard as “elephantitis”) is characterized by severe “thickening of the skin and underlying tissues,” occurring most often in the legs and genitals. And it’s pretty gross.

It isn’t in the worm’s interest, as it were, to have this massive inflammatory response in its host, so it secretes a large molecule called “ES-62.” ES-62, according to researchers, seems to act like a “thermostat” for inflammation. With no known adverse health effects, ES-62 reduces the inflammatory immune response that causes elephantiasis, as well as rheumatoid arthritis, while leaving intact the immune system’s other mechanisms for fighting infections.

Similar research has been done on parasitic schistosomes (blood flukes). Populations with high infection rates of certain schistosomes have a greatly reduced incidence of allergies and asthma, and the thought is that the blood flukes are also able to regulate their host’s immune response so that it ignores some irritants (like the flukes) but still doesn’t allow the body to become too sick.

Wild, huh?

So get yourself some worms, y’all. Foxy boys and girls can tell when you’re sneezing and limping (not attractive), but they can’t see the worms and blood flukes teeming through your system. So you decide.

Yet another promising line of attack against cancer: doctors in Seattle have treated a man with advanced skin cancer by cloning his white blood cells – the part of the human immune system that fights infection – and injecting them into his tumors. The cancer has gone away and not returned for two years.


AIDS virus: A new study shows some patients' immune systems can recover from AIDS. Image NIH
AIDS virus: A new study shows some patients' immune systems can recover from AIDS. Image NIH

A new study has found that some AIDS patients are able to recover their immune systems to normal levels.

White blood cells protect the body from disease by fighting invaders. But AIDS attacks white blood cells, reducing their number, and leaving the patient vulnerable to other illnesses. Doctors treat AIDS with a combination of drugs that keeps the number of virus particles low, but there is little they can do to repair the damage to the immune system.

This study took over 1,800 AIDS patients who responded well to the drug therapy, and found that some of them actually brought their white blood cell count back up to normal levels.

The doctors stress that these were "best-case scenario" patients -- this will not work for everyone who has AIDS. Also, this is not a cure -- the AIDS virus remains in the patient's body, and a complicated and expensive series of drugs is needed to keep it at low levels.