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How the immune system protects us from colon cancer

February 1, 2019 12:43

Researchers at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin discovered protective mechanism that is used by the body to protect the intestinal stem cells from becoming cancerous. It was discovered that the innate immune system plays a key role in this regard. The researchers were able to demonstrate that instead of having to perform a purely defensive role, the immune system is critical to maintaining a healthy body. The study was published in the scientific journal Nature.

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In our depths there is a meeting of two worlds. It is here that the cells of our intestinal walls meet with foreign substances such as bacteria, food and digestion products of decay. Both of these world - both our bodies and the outside world - are in direct contact, constantly exchanging information. This direct contact is essential for our body, as many environmental factors, to which we are exposed (for example, certain types of bacteria and essential nutrients), useful or even vital to our health. However, contact with the environment can also have a negative impact on our body. For example, some foreign substance may cause genetic changes in the epithelial cells that line the intestinal wall our. The accumulation of this type of DNA damage, especially when it occurs within the epithelial stem cells could lead to intestinal cancer.

To prevent the development of cancer cells are able to repair DNA damage. Where the damage is too great, they can commit "suicide altruistic cells" (also known as apoptosis). Until now, scientists have assumed that stem cells trigger the mechanism of self-recovery. However, a study (under the direction of Prof. Dr. Andreas dieffenbachia come to a different conclusion, namely, that the immune system is able to enhance the mechanism of DNA repair in the damaged stem cells, thereby preventing the progression of colon cancer.

Working with other researchers, Professor Diefenbach and his team were able to show in a mouse model that the innate immune system cells capable of recognizing genotoxic environmental factors that are present in the intestine. Among them, there are certain glucosinolates, natural components of plants that are commonly found in many types of cabbage. Once the innate immune system cells detect damaging glucosinolates, they send interleukin 22, a type of cell messenger. This in turn allows the epithelial stem cells to detect potential damage to DNA before and recover it faster. "The immune system acts as a sensor that detects genotoxic food ingredients" - explains Prof. Diefenbach. "Disconnection of the sensor leads to a significant increase in cases of colon cancer."

Immunologist for these data are not only evidence of a previously unknown regulatory system, which is used by the body to protect against colon cancer. It also suggests that the immune system is much more complex than a simple defense mechanism against pathogens. "The immune system controls both the healthy growth and functioning of various organs in the body," - explains Prof. Diefenbach. He and his team would like to use future studies for more detailed study of the complex interactions between food components, the intestinal flora of the intestinal wall and the immune system. "It is here that we can find a clue as to why so many inflammatory diseases," - says Prof. Diefenbach.



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