A hand scratching a wrist.

Itching for no reason? Immune system may be at fault

People who suffer itching with no clear cause may have previously unrecognized immune system defects. In a small study of such patients, researchers from the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis identified immune system irregularities that may prompt the urge to scratch.

New center aims to use immune system to fight cancer, other diseases

A new center at the School of Medicine will help scientists use the power of the immune system to fight infections and cancers. The Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs is part of BioMed21, Washington University’s initiative to accelerate basic science discoveries into improved diagnosis and treatment for patients.

Gut bacteria can cause life-threatening infections in preterm babies

Babies born prematurely are surviving in increasing numbers, but many withstand complications of early birth only to suffer late-onset sepsis — life-threatening bloodstream infections that strike after infants reach 72 hours of age. The causes of late-onset sepsis have not been clear. But now, researchers at the School of Medicine led by Phillip I. Tarr, MD, and Barbara B. Warner, MD, have discovered that preterm babies’ guts harbor infectious microbes that can cause this condition.

Immune cells may heal an injured heart

Researchers at the School of Medicine have shown that two major pools of immune cells are at work in the heart. Both belong to a class of cells known as macrophages. One appears to promote healing, while the other likely drives inflammation, which is detrimental to long-term heart function.

Diabetes drug safe for HIV patients, study finds

People with HIV have an elevated risk of heart attacks, diabetes and insulin problems, and there are not many drug options to prevent those problems due to concerns that they will weaken the immune system. But a new study by researchers at the School of Medicine has shown that a diabetes drug appears to be safe in patients and does not dampen their immunity.

Timing, duration of biochemical bugle call critical for fighting viruses

Researchers have identified the primary player of the biochemical bugle call that musters the body’s defenders against viral infection. Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that a key molecule, MDA5, is essential for producing enough interferon (the bugle call) to rally virus-fighting cells during certain viral infections.