A signaling pathway that tuberculosis bacteria use to coerce disease-fighting cells to switch allegiance and work on their behalf has been discovered by scientists.
Epithelial cells line the airways and other surfaces to protect and defend the body. Tuberculosis bacteria co-opt these epithelial cells into helping create tubercles: the small, rounded masses characteristic of TB. The tubercles enable the bacteria to expand their numbers and spread to other locations.
By inciting parts of the immune system to go into overdrive, this same molecular signaling pathway may play other roles in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and some forms of heart disease and cancer
"If we could keep this pathway from inciting the host immune system, we may be well on the way to finding innovative new therapies against TB, as well as other serious disorders," said the senior researcher on the study, Dr. Lalita Ramakrishnan, University of Washington (UW) associate professor of microbiology, medicine, and immunology. The results appear in the Dec. 10, 2009 express edition of Science