What makes a worm say ‘yuck’

Monday, May 14, 2012 - 07:50 in Health & Medicine

Researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) say they have uncovered a way that animals detect pathogens in their bodies that allows their systems to respond before cellular damage occurs. Scientists already know of two ways that the body detects disease-causing germs. In one, our innate immune system is pre-programmed to recognize certain pathogens before they do damage. In another, our bodies are on the lookout for free-floating molecules normally found inside cells, a sign that a cell has been damaged and spilled its contents. Now, Justine Melo, a research fellow, and Gary Ruvkun, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School (HMS), have reported in the journal Cell that animals can also detect disruptions in important cellular processes that occur before the cell itself dies, which allows an earlier immune response that can potentially rescue the cell. Melo said that the research further fleshes out how the innate immune system recognizes pathogens, a...

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