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Previously immune responses to expel the parasite have been shown to rely on white blood cells called T-helper 2 cells, specialised for eliminating gastrointestinal parasites. However, scientists at Lancaster discovered that following this T-helper 2 response, a second T-helper 17 response, previously shown to be specialised for eliminating fungal infections and certain bacterial infections occurred.
In collaboration with Professors Mark Travis and Richard Grencis from the University of Manchester, they were able to identify how these T-helper 17 cells arose and that they were key in maintaining the intestinal muscle contractions needed to flush out the worms. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS Pathogens and show that mice lacking the ability to activate a key signalling molecule important in producing T-helper 17 cells have a reduced ability to expel the parasite. Interestingly, they saw a delayed transit time in the small intestine hinting at alterations in muscle contraction. In isolating the small intestine they demonstrated that a key molecule produced from T-helper 17 cells, termed IL-17, could increase intestinal contraction and restoring levels of this IL-17 in...
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