The link between the immune system, the microbiome and inflammatory bowel disease
Researchers from Charité Universitätsmedizin, Berlin and the Cluster of Excellence PMI at Kiel University have discovered the mechanism that controls immune reactions against microorganisms in the intestine. The results of the study published in the journal Nature Immunology show how the immune system protects against the spread of pathogenic germs in the intestine whilst also allowing the colonisation of beneficial microorganisms. The microbiota also directly influences the strength and quality of our immune systems.
The researchers studied the molecular regulators of immune-microbiome reactions focusing on T cells (immune cells that prevent harmless or ‘good’ microorganisms in the intestine from being attacked by the immune system). The researchers identified a molecule, c-Maf and discovered that if this is missing the gut’s immune system overreacts and changes the microbiota. The researchers explained “These results show how both the immune system and the microbiota mutually contribute to establishing and maintaining the balance in the gut. This could explain how a microbial imbalance can contribute to chronic inflammatory bowel disease and why treatment often fails.”