AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: bone marrow

T Regulatory Cells Help Maintain Plasma Cells

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, in February 2017, have discovered a trend in T regulatory cells and plasma cells, that explain why these “antibody-producing plasma cells” can last so long. They used a special microscope that shows “movement and interaction” of cells.  They found that regulatory T cells in the bone marrow support plasma cells, which disappear without the T cells.  Plasma cells are involved in the immune system, and can either be vital or detrimental. To learn more about plasma cells click here.  Scientists hope to use this new knowledge of the interaction between regulatory T cells and plasma cells to either increase the amount of plasma cells to fight off a virus, for example, or to decrease the amount in order to stop it from creating a disease.  This research also explains why vaccines can last so long. For example, the chicken pox vaccine is only given twice when the person is very young, but they will be protected against the disease even when they are much older. The regulatory T cells support the plasma cells in the bone marrow which create antibodies that fight off viruses, etc. Another article that explains this discovery can be found here. An article that describes more uses of regulatory T cells in the immune system can be found here.

With this discovery, scientists have more power to control, and have more insight into how plasma cells can be sustained over long periods of time.

Here is an image of an antibody that plasma cells create.

Long Term Effects of Bad Diet Linked to Epigenome

Epigenetics has become an increasingly popular topic of scientific study. It is universally understood that DNA carries genes, however the expression of those genes are at the whim of the epigenome. The long-term control of the epigenome over the expression of certain genes is not yet fully understood. Scientist Erik van Kampen of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research at Leiden University in The Netherlands studies epigenetics. He was interested in the mystery of how the epigenome is influenced by diet. He explored the idea of how the effects of a poor diet continue to persist even after a better diet is adopted.

In his study, he used mice that naturally had a high susceptibility to getting high blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis. He fed these mice either a high fat, high-cholesterol diet or a normal diet. After time had passed, bone marrow was isolated from both the unhealthy and healthy diet mice. This bone marrow was transplanted into mice that had their bone marrow destroyed. The new mice with borrowed bone marrow were given a healthy, normal diet for several months. After this time had passed, the mice were measured for development of atherosclerosis in the heart. In addition to this, the mice were measured for the number and status of immune cells throughout the body and epigenetic markings on the DNA in the bone marrow.

The results of this study were staggering. Mr. Kampen found that DNA methylation (which inactivates the expression of genes) in the bone marrow was different in both types of mice. The transplants received from the unhealthy diet mice were seen as having a decreased immune system and increased atherosclerosis in comparison to the ones who had healthy donors. This study proves at least somewhat of a correlation between diet and long-term effects on the body and the expression of genes.

The original article can be found at this address:

New Breakthrough in Cancer Research

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A metastasized tumor is a group of cancer cells that have spread from a localized area through out the body. Normally once a cancer has metastasized the patient has a more serious prognosis. In some cancers, metastatic disease can be a death sentence. For years scientists have been challenged with understanding how tumors spread beyond their initial boundaries.

Their questions may have finally been answered. Researchers at Yale University have found metastasis in the brain of a cancer patient with melanoma that is a hybrid of Tumor and White Blood Cells. It is hypothesized that these hybrids may explain how cancers travel to distant sites and metastasize. This theory had been proposed before, but it was not until recently that genes from both tumor and White Blood cells were found in tumor cells. Researchers tested their theory on a sixty-eight year old cancer patient who had received a bone marrow transplant from his brother. Bone marrow helps stimulate the production of white blood cells. No one person’s bone marrow is exactly alike, even if they are brothers. Researchers found that the bone marrow the patient had received from his brother fused with the cancer cells to make a hybrid cell almost identical to that of the patient. This implies that the cancer cells are not just targeting the specific, weak white blood cells of the cancer patient, but also the healthier blood cells of his brother. Cancer can metastasize quicker than we had assumed.

So it leaves us with the question: What are we to do with this information? Researchers suggest that when the mechanism of fusion is fully understood, target therapies can be developed to attack the formation of the White Cell- tumor Hybrids.

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