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36 news posts in Frontiers in Immunology

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22 Jun 2023

Space travel alters gene expression in white blood cells, weakening our immune system

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Scientists have shown that the expression of (mostly protein-coding) genes in white blood cells changes rapidly when astronauts reach the International Space Station. This may explain why astronauts appear more susceptible to infectious diseases while in space. Most genes returned to their typical pre-flight level of expression within a few weeks to one year after landing, suggesting that Earth-level gravity is required for the immune system of astronauts to function optimally Evidence is mounting that astronauts are more susceptible to infections while in space. For example, astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) commonly suffer from skin rashes, as well as respiratory and non-respiratory diseases. Astronauts are also known to shed more live virus particles, for example Epstein-Barr virus, varicella-zoster responsible for shingles, herpes-simplex-1 responsible for sores, and cytomegalovirus. These observations suggest that our immune system might be weakened by space travel. But what could cause such an immune deficit? “Here we show that the expression of many genes related to immune functions rapidly decreases when astronauts reach space, while the opposite happens when they return to Earth after six months aboard the ISS,” said Dr Odette Laneuville, an associate professor at the […]


13 Oct 2022

From chili-heat pain relief to blue whale migration: 5 Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Chili to the rescue: Modulating capsaicin as a treatment for chronic itching Pain and itching are both signals that help humans protect themselves, by prompting us to end contact with whatever causes us pain or make us itch. However, they are also key symptoms of many disorders, and can be frustratingly difficult to treat. Scientists from the Universidad Miguel Hernández, writing in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, investigated whether transient receptor potential channels, which pick up sensory cues ranging from the taste of wasabi to changes in pH, could help treat pain and itching. Previous attempts to exploit these channels to stop pain and itching have not been successful because they cause overheating as a side effect, so the authors suggested that ‘soft’ modulation of the channels might be more patient-friendly, targeting only the channels that aren’t working correctly. While there are several existing medications which use capsaicin to target these channels, […]

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23 Sep 2022

Acquired immunity against random food allergens may protect some lucky people against Covid-19

By Conn Hastings, science writer A new study has investigated the potential of proteins in common foods to elicit protection against SARS-CoV-2. The researchers found that antibodies that bind SARS-CoV-2 can also bind to proteins in certain foods, viruses, vaccines, and common bacteria. The results suggest that exposure to such agents may confer some protective immunity to Covid-19, but further research is needed to confirm this. Why do some people become seriously ill with Covid-19, while others have no symptoms at all? The answer may lie in the proteins our immune system has previously been exposed to. A recent study in open-access journal Frontiers in Immunology finds that common foods, vaccines, bacteria and viruses may all prime our immune system to attack SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. These agents all contain proteins that are similar to those found in SARS-CoV-2. As such, exposure to these proteins may train our immune system to respond when it encounters the virus. The study paves the way for new immunotherapies or vaccines that lead to stronger immunity against Covid-19. SARS-CoV-2: comfort in the familiar? SARS-CoV-2 is new, and the pandemic can make it feel like an alien invader from another planet. However, it […]

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11 Oct 2021

Breast milk from Mennonite moms on farms better protects babies from allergies

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Image credit: Richard L. Bowman / A new study is the first to compare breast milk between mothers from the older order Mennonite community who live on traditional farms versus urban women. Communities such as old order Mennonites are known to have a low prevalence of atopic diseases associated with allergies, presumably due to environmental and lifestyle factors. The results show that breast milk from Mennonite mothers is richer in neutral or beneficial bacteria, certain cytokines and fatty acids, and IgA antibodies important for defense against bacteria. Their milk may give babies a better protection against allergens in infancy and later in life. Atopic diseases, which include eczema, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and food allergy, are caused by an innate or acquired allergy to airborne particles, such as pollen, dust, mold, or animal dander, or to foodstuffs like peanut, milk, soy, shellfish, or wheat. Until the early 20th century, allergy was thought to be a rare disease. But since in the 1920s to 1930s and especially since the second half of the 20th century, the prevalence of allergies has exploded in Western societies. For example, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology estimates […]

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12 Sep 2019

Researchers identify cancer killing capability of lesser-known immune cells

Linked with obesity, esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the Western world. Image: Shutterstock. Finding new ways to reverse the inhibition of ‘MAIT’ immune cells could transform the prognosis of esophageal cancer — by Trinity College Dublin Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have identified, for the first time in esophageal cancer, the cancer killing capability of a lesser-known type of immune cell, presenting a new potential therapeutic target. Their research is published in Frontiers in Immunology. Esophageal cancer is a very aggressive type of cancer with poor prognosis, and the 5-year survival rate is typically less than 15%. Linked with obesity, esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the Western world and incidence is due to double in Ireland within the next few decades. Current treatment strategies work well but only for a minority (approx. 25%) of patients so new treatment options are urgently needed. New treatment strategies targeting the immune system have had revolutionary effects in other cancer types, but the latest clinical trials show that, disappointingly, immunotherapy offers no real benefit for the majority of patients with oesophageal cancer. Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells Display Diminished Effector Capacity in Oesophageal Adenocarcinoma► Read original […]