Thursday, October 27, 2016

Protein found in hookworm ‘soup’ could fight asthma, other autoimmune diseases

A lab led by molecular parasitologist, Alex Loukas, has been analyzing hookworms and have found that they may be able to aid in the reduction of auto-inflammatory responses in diseases like asthma, Crohn's and celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis.  Hookworms have been around for a very long time, and when they get into a host they can cause nausea, anemia, cramping, fever, and a number of other symptoms. In the past century, humans have effectively reduced the abundance of hookworms in our offspring and have greatly reduced the abundance of hookworms in humans, and consequently the number of people that have these auto-immune diseases has also greatly increased. The scientific team studying these organisms has discovered that they may also have some traits that can combat these harmful diseases in humans.
Close up photo of a hookworm
The key isn't really in the hookworms, but the liquid that these worms secrete.  There is a protein in the fluid called AIP-2, which when injected into mice, alleviates their auto-immune responses.  In the experiment, the treated animals' diseases were almost completely reversed, and they also found that it shifted the balance of immune cells like T cells and dendritic cells.  This can be helpful in battling harmful immune reactions in the lungs.  Though the research is far away from any human testing, this may be a great discovery for treating diseases that cause a lot of ailment to humans.  This experiment also shows that our relationship to parasites should be altered. Parasites are only known to be harmful to us, but if we open our minds, we can discover completely new helpful relationships with these organisms in order to improve our quality of life.  In fact, the role could be completely reversed in which we harm those organisms for our own gain in health benefits.

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