Studying twins from birth through age 2, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that the gut’s immune system develops in sync with the gut’s tens of trillions of microbes. The findings have implications for understanding healthy growth and, potentially, the origins of various immune disorders.
Studying mice with a variety of viral infections, scientists at the School of Medicine have demonstrated a way to dial up the body’s innate immune defenses while simultaneously attacking a protein that many viruses rely on to replicate. The findings reveal previously unknown weapons in the body’s antiviral immune arsenal and provide guidelines for designing drugs that could be effective against a broad range of viruses.
The DNA of bacteria that live in the body can pass a trait to offspring in a way similar to the parents’ own DNA, a new mouse study suggests. According to the authors, the discovery means scientists need to consider a significant new factor – microbial DNA– in their efforts to understand how genes influence illness and health.
A multi-institutional campaign to harness a newly recognized cellular defense against infection is being led by researchers at the School of Medicine. A $32 million grant from the National Institutes of Health is funding the collaborative, which could lead to drugs with unprecedented versatility in fighting different infections. Washington University’s Herbert W. Virgin IV, MD, PhD, is the principal investigator.
After defeating an infection, the immune system creates a memory of the attacker to make it easier to eliminate in the future. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered an important component of the immune system’s strategy for preserving such immunological memories.
The same trait that makes a rare immune cell invaluable in fighting some infections also can be exploited by other diseases to cause harm, two new studies show. By studying the basic functions of these cells, scientists are laying the groundwork to use them to fight infections. The cells also appear to be essential for some cancer vaccines, which enlist the power of the immune system to help fight tumors.