There is a STRONG link between exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and vitamin D deficiency


Image: There is a STRONG link between exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and vitamin D deficiency

It seems that the sky’s the limit when it comes to the toxic effects of BPA and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals. BPA and similar chemicals are known for their deleterious effects on the endocrine system,  cardiovascular system, and their ability to cause infertility and more. But recent research has shown that the hazards of BPA and other endocrine disruptors can even cause vitamin D deficiency — which can cause a whole host of other health issues.

Time and time again, big businesses manage to get their toxic chemicals approved by governing officials. And it is only after these toxins have become persistent in our environment, and exposure has become inevitable, that the true, sinister nature of these poisons is revealed.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is an extremely important nutrient that is responsible for many functions in the body. In addition to promoting bone health, vitamin D is highly regarded for its brain and immune system benefits. Consequently, deficiency in this nutrient is quite the concern. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an array of problems, including deficits in brain function and increased mortality risk. Vitamin D deficiency is something you want to avoid, to say the least.

A study by the Endocrine Society has shown that in addition to all the other ill effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like BPA, these toxins can cause vitamin D deficiency, too. Published in 2016, the Society’s examination of over 1300 studies on EDCs also found links to infertility, obesity, diabetes, neurological problems and hormone-related cancers, among other ails.

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Lauren Johns, MPH, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the study’s first author, commented on the research.

“Nearly every person on the planet is exposed to BPA and another class of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, so the possibility that these chemicals may even slightly reduce vitamin D levels has widespread implications for public health,” she explained.

“Vitamin D plays a broad role in maintaining bone and muscle health. In addition, low vitamin D levels have been implicated in outcomes of numerous conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” Johns added.

Based on the team’s findings, people exposed to large amounts of EDCs are more prone to vitamin D deficiency — with women being more strongly affected than then men.

Professor John D. Meeker, MS, ScD, and senior author of the study, stated that more research is needed to understand how EDCs disrupt vitamin D levels. Meeker posited, “[B]ut it is possible that EDCs alter the active form of vitamin D in the body through some of the same mechanisms that they use to impact similar reproductive and thyroid hormones.” However, this is only a theory so far.

Hidden danger: EDCs are everywhere

As Natural Health 365 reports, EDCs like BPA are everywhere. There are over 85,000 manufactured chemicals on the market today, and many thousands of those are EDCs. BPA can be found in everything from water bottles to dental fillings, and is also used in medical devices, eyeglass lenses, sports equipment and and array of electronics. And that’s just one chemical — there are many other hormone-disrupting chemicals out there.

Phthalates, for example, are used in a litany of products, including personal care products, cosmetics, food packaging and more. Phthalates are also known for their ability to disrupt endocrine function and other adverse effects. Some ways you can reduce exposure to these compounds include choosing products that are BPA- and phthalate-free. Selecting glass, ceramic or other natural materials over plastic when possible is another tip.

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Therapy Made From Patient’s Immune System Shows Promise For Advanced Breast Cancer


“I’m one of the lucky ones,” says Judy Perkins, of the immunotherapy treatment she got. The experimental approach seems to have eradicated her metastatic breast cancer.”

Courtesy of Judy Perkins

Doctors at the National Institutes of Health say they’ve apparently completely eradicated cancer from a patient who had untreatable, advanced breast cancer.

The case is raising hopes about a new way to harness the immune system to fight some of the most common cancers. The methods and the patient’s experience are described Monday in a paper published in the journal Nature Medicine.

“We’re looking for a treatment — an immunotherapy — that can be broadly used in patients with common cancers,” says Dr. Steven Rosenberg, an oncologist and immunologist at the National Cancer Institute, who has been developing the approach.

Rosenberg’s team painstakingly analyzes the DNA in a sample of each patient’s cancer for mutations specific to their malignancies. Next, scientists sift through tumor tissue for immune system cells known as T cells that appear programmed to home in on those mutations.

But Rosenberg and others caution that the approach doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it failed for two other breast cancer patients. Many more patients will have to be treated — and followed for much longer — to fully evaluate the treatment’s effectiveness, the scientists say.

Still, the treatment has helped seven of 45 patients with a variety of cancers, Rosenberg says. That’s a response rate of about 15 percent, and included patients with advanced cases of colon cancer, liver cancer and cervical cancer.

“Is it ready for prime time today? No,” Rosenberg says.”Can we do it in most patients today? No.”

But the treatment continues to be improved. “I think it’s the most promising treatment now being explored for solving the problem of the treatment of metastatic, common cancers,” he says.

The breast cancer patient helped by the treatment says it transformed her life.

“It’s amazing,” says Judy Perkins, 52, a retired engineer who lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

When Perkins was first diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2003, she thought she’d beaten the disease. “I thought I was done with it,” she says.

But about a decade later, she felt a new lump. Doctors discovered the cancer had already spread throughout her chest. Her prognosis was grim.

“I became a metastatic cancer patient,” says Perkins. “That was hard.”

Perkins went through round after round of chemotherapy. She tried every experimental treatment she could find. But the cancer kept spreading. Some of her tumors grew to the size of tennis balls.

Perkins received tumor infiltrating lymphocytes as treatment in 2015.

Courtesy of Stephanie Goff/NIH

“I had sort of essentially run out of arrows in my quiver,” she says. “While I would say I had some hope, I was also kind of like ready to quit, too.”

Then she heard about the experimental treatment at the NIH. It was designed to fight some of the most common cancers, including breast cancer.

“The excitement here is that we’re attacking the very mutations that are unique to that cancer — in that patient’s cancer and not in anybody else’s cancer. So it’s about as personalized a treatment as you can imagine,” Rosenberg says.

His team identified and then grew billions of T cells for Perkins in the lab and then infused them back into her body. They also gave her two drugs to help the cells do their job.

The treatment was grueling. Perkins says the hardest part was the side effects of a drug known as interleukin, which she received to help boost the effectiveness of the immune system cells. Interleukin causes severe flu-like symptoms, such as a high fever, intense malaise and uncontrollable shivering.

But the treatment apparently worked, Rosenberg reports. Perkins’ tumors soon disappeared. And, more than two years later, she remains cancer-free.

“All of her detectable disease has disappeared. It’s remarkable,” Rosenberg says.

Perkins is thrilled.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Perkins says. “We got the right T cells in the right place at the right time. And they went in and ate up all my cancer. And I’m cured. It’s freaking unreal.”

In an article accompanying the new paper, Laszlo Radvanyi, president and scientific director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, calls the results “remarkable.”

The approach and other recent advances suggest scientists may be “at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realizing the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy,” Radvanyi writes.

Other cancer researchers agree.

“When I saw this paper I thought: “Whoa! I mean, it’s very impressive,” says James Heath, president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.

“One of the most exciting breakthroughs in biomedicine over the past decade has been activating the immune system against various cancers. But they have not been successful in breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is basically a death sentence,” Heath says. “And this shows that you can reverse it. It’s a big deal.”

One key challenge will be to make the treatment easier, faster, and affordable, Rosenberg says. “We’re working literally around the clock to try to improve the treatment.”

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Sweetening Your Vape With Flavouring Could Be Damaging Your Immune System


Safer to eat than to breathe.

Adding a touch of cinnamon or vanilla to your e-cigarette might ease your stress levels, but the same can’t be said for your white blood cells.

That’s the take-home message from a study conducted by a team of US researchers who examined the impact vaporised flavour additives had on our health. It turns out they aren’t as innocent as we’d thought.

Naturally occurring chemicals such as cinnamaldehydeacetoinortho-vanillin, and maltol are what give cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and caramel their characteristic flavours.

We’ve happily swallowed them in our food for generations with no evidence of ill effects, so few have questioned whether inhaling the same compounds as a vapour might be a cause for concern.

Yet suspected links between flavouring chemicals such as diacetyl and respiratory conditions such as bronchitis have hinted at a potential for serious health problems.

To gain a better understanding of what was going on, scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in the United States exposed white blood cells called monocytes to seven common e-cigarette flavourings, and looked for signs of oxidative stress.

The results showed there’s a clear need to have a rethink on just how safe flavoured e-cigarettes might be.

The researchers found flavourings produced compounds called reactive oxygen species– substances that are known to damage cell structures in high enough concentrations.

White cells exposed to the flavourings also pumped out a signalling protein called interleukin 8 in concentrations that went up in accordance with the dose.

This protein acts as a chemical siren for other immune cells, calling them to a site of infection or cellular damage. In other words, the cells were responding to the presence of flavourings as if they recognised them as hazardous.

Lastly, they looked at the general health or viability of the cells as they were exposed to different additives, to get some idea of the flavourings’ general toxicity.

Some of the additives were more toxic than others, but it was in combination that they really did some damage.

“Cinnamon, vanilla, and butter flavouring chemicals were the most toxic but our research showed that mixing flavours of e-liquids caused by far the most toxicity to white blood cells,” says toxicologist Thivanka Muthumalage.

Putting the results into perspective, there’s a big leap between white blood cells screaming for help in a petri dish and a physiological reaction in an otherwise healthy human being.

But it does add a new level of complexity to the debate over how we might want to deal with the growing fad of swapping old fashioned cigarettes for vaping.

 “Currently, these are not regulated, and alluring flavour names, such as candy, cake, cinnamon roll and mystery mix, attract young vapers,” says the study’s senior author, Irfan Rahman.

“Our scientific findings show that e-liquid flavours can, and should, be regulated and that e-juice bottles must have a descriptive listing of all ingredients. We urge regulatory agencies to act to protect public health.”

A couple of years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would use the same set of rules to regulate both electronic and non-electronic cigarettes.

This was overturned last year, when the FDA released a new set of regulations, focussing on beating nicotine addiction by relaxing laws surrounding the vaporising of tobacco compounds.

Whether this kind of research impacts on future changes to regulations is anybody’s guess. More research will no doubt fill in the missing details on exactly how vaping in all its forms affects our bodies.

In the meantime, if e-cigarettes are your way to beat an addiction, you might want to consider how badly you want that cinnamon puff.

Scientists Think They’ve Found a Way to Stop Allergic Reactions Before They Happen


Holy grail!

If you’re one of the unlucky millions of people burdened by allergies, you know that sometimes there’s only so much antihistamines can do to help.

Researchers have been working to find more effective allergy treatments, and now they’ve discovered how a particular antibody can stop an allergic reaction from happening altogether.

An allergic reaction is the immune system’s way of completely overreacting to a normally benign substance, from proteins in cat saliva to surprisingly deadly peanuts.

When the body is exposed to an allergen, the immune system goes into overdrive producing ridiculous amounts of a specific type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). It’s a large, Y-shaped molecule that attaches itself to the immune cells tasked with releasing invader-attacking chemicals.

These compounds – especially histamine – go on to produce the varied and miserable symptoms of an allergy, whether it’s a runny nose and eyes, or the more serious anaphylactic reaction that accompanies severe food allergies or insect bites.

Allergy tablets typically target these immune system compounds or their receptors, therefore preventing or at least easing the allergy symptoms. But if we target IgE itself, there’s a chance to prevent the allergic reaction from even taking place.

A team led by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark has now discovered a mechanism through which a particular anti-IgE antibody can make this miracle happen.

This new antibody, called 026 sdab, was first derived from llamas, and is akin to a range of such molecules discovered in camelid species and cartilaginous fishes.

“Once the IgE on immune cells can be eliminated, it doesn’t matter that the body produces millions of allergen-specific IgE molecules,”  says senior author of the study, Edzard Spillner from Aarhus University.

“When we can remove the trigger, the allergic reaction and symptoms will not occur.”

While the antibody hasn’t yet been tested in actual people, the team used blood samples from people with diagnosed allergies to birch pollen and insect venom, and watched how the antibody performed.

Within just 15 minutes, treatment with 026 sdab reduced IgE levels down to 30 percent from the starting amount, and even further down when the test lasted longer.

“We can now precisely map how the antibody prevents binding of IgE to its receptors,” says one of the team, molecular biologist Nick Laursen from Aarhus University.

“This allows us to envision completely new strategies for engineering medicine of the future.”

There’s already one anti-IgE therapy on the market, called omalizumab – it’s approved in over 90 countries for the treatment of stubborn cases of allergic asthma, but isn’t always effective.

According to the team, 026 sdab is a much smaller antibody than what’s currently available or in development. It’s also easier to produce, and is “extremely stable”, which means it doesn’t have to be injected like omalizumab does.

“This provides new opportunities for how the antibody can be administered to patients,” says Spillner.

There’s still a while to go before this amazing-sounding treatment makes its way to humans – it still needs to undergo extensive testing, including safety research.

But the team’s findings could also open up avenues for discovering more similar antibodies, thus speeding up the process – and we’re really excited.

“Our description of the 026 sdab mode of action is likely to accelerate the development of anti-allergy and asthma drugs in the future,” the team writes in the paper.

Research Shows 72 Hours Fasting Can Reboot the Entire Immune System of Humans.


Recently, a research by a team from University of Southern California claimed that three days’ fasting can effectively regenerate our immune systems. This brilliant discovery can organically lead to a better and healthier immune system.

 New findings about fasting

Earlier, fasting was not supported by doctors and nutritionists. However this research shows how fasting can help in the creation of new white blood cells, essential in fighting infection. The more we age, the weaker our immune systems become, making us prone to common diseases. This organic method can benefit the elderly and those whose immune system is very weak, like cancer patients. Fasting for 72 hours protects cancer patients from the harmful effects of chemotherapy.

Fasting initiates a regenerative process by producing more white blood cells that reboots the entire immune system. A researcher of this study and a professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences at the University of CaliforniaValter Longo, vouched for this natural approach to immune system regeneration. He says that this process removes the damaged and old components of the system and rebuilds the immune system.

 Conducting the study

People participating in the study were initially asked to fast for 2-4 days regularly for 6 months. It was seen that starving not only helped in creating a new immune system but also decreased PKA enzyme, which generally causes tumor growth and cancer.
Prolonged fasting made the body use its fat and glucose storage and also the white blood cell level lowered. This reduction causes changes leading to stem cell related regeneration.

Professor Longo said that when we start fasting, our system gets the cue to save energy and it ends up recycling many damaged and unimportant immune cells. They could not believe that this natural method would be so beneficial in stem cell based regenerative process of the hematopoietic system.

This Incredible Virus Attacks Brain Cancer And Actually Boosts Our Immune System


The first therapeutic virus to pass the blood-brain barrier.

A study attempting to show that viruses could be delivered to brain tumours has delivered that and more.

Not only did the virus in question reach its target, it also stimulated the patient’s own immune system – which then also attacked the tumour.

 

Preclinical experiments in mice, followed by window-of-opportunity trials in nine human patients, showed that the naturally occurring virus offers potential for a new type of cancer therapy that could be used alongside other treatments.

The virus they used is one that has previously shown potential for cancer treatment – what is known as an oncolytic virus.

It’s called mammalian orthoreovirus type 3, from the reovirus family, and it has previously been shown to kill tumour cells, but leave healthy cells alone.

Previous experiments have demonstrated this mechanism, but researchers from the University of Leeds are the first to successfully direct it at brain tumours.

This is because, until now, it was thought unlikely that the reovirus would be able to cross the blood-brain barrier, a membrane that protects the brain from pathogens.

“This is the first time it has been shown that a therapeutic virus is able to pass through the brain-blood barrier, and that opens up the possibility this type of immunotherapy could be used to treat more people with aggressive brain cancers,” co-lead author Adel Samson said.

Nine patients were selected to be injected with the virus via a single-dose intravenous drip. All either had brain tumours that had spread to other parts of the body, or fast-growing gliomas – a type of brain tumour that is difficult to treat and has a poor prognosis.

All were scheduled to have their brain tumours surgically removed in a matter of days following the reovirus experiment.

The researchers took samples from their tumours after they had been removed, and compared to the tumours of patients who had had brain surgery, but not the reovirus treatment beforehand.

The researchers found the virus in the tumour samples of the trial patients, clearly showing that the virus has been able to reach the cancer.

But they also found an elevated level of interferons, the proteins that activate our immune system. The team says that these interferons were attracting white blood cells to the site to fight the tumour.

“Our immune systems aren’t very good at ‘seeing’ cancers – partly because cancer cells look like our body’s own cells, and partly because cancers are good at telling immune cells to turn a blind eye. But the immune system is very good at seeing viruses,” said co-lead author Alan Melcher.

“In our study, we were able to show that reovirus could infect cancer cells in the brain. And, importantly, brain tumours infected with reovirus became much more visible to the immune system.”

These findings are already being applied in a clinical trial, where patients are being given the reovirus treatment in addition to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. One patient’s treatment is already underway – he is being given 16 doses of the reovirus to treat his glioblastoma.

The reason he is being given multiple doses is because of the way the virus activates the immune system. This clinical trial will determine how well cancer patients can tolerate the treatment, since the virus creates flu-like side effects, and whether it makes the standard treatments more effective.

“The presence of cancer in the brain dampens the body’s own immune system. The presence of the reovirus counteracts this and stimulates the defence system into action,” said one of the researchers, oncologist Susan Short, who is also leading the clinical trial.

“Our hope is that the additional effect of the virus on enhancing the body’s immune response to the tumour will increase the amount of tumour cells that are killed by the standard treatment, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”

Study reveals how to reprogram cells in our immune system


T cell
Scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T cell) from the immune system of a healthy donor. 

When the immune system is imbalanced, either due to overly-active cells or cells that suppress its function, it causes a wide range of diseases, from psoriasis to cancer. By manipulating the function of certain immune cells, called T cells, researchers could help restore the system’s balance and create new treatments to target these diseases.

 Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes revealed, for the first time, a method to reprogram specific T cells. More precisely, they discovered how to turn pro-inflammatory cells that boost the immune  into anti-inflammatory cells that suppress it, and vice versa.

The researchers studied two types of cells called effector T cells, which activate the immune system to defend our body against different pathogens, and regulatory T cells, which help control the immune system and prevent it from attacking healthy parts of its environment.

“Our findings could have a significant impact on the treatment of autoimmune diseases, as well as on stem cell and immuno-oncology therapies,” said Gladstone Senior Investigator Sheng Ding, PhD, who is also a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco.

By drawing on their expertise in drug discovery, Ding’s team identified a small-molecule drug that can successfully reprogram effector T cells into regulatory T cells. Their study, published in the renowned journal Nature, describes in detail a metabolic mechanism that helps convert one cell type into another.

This new approach to reprogram T cells could have several medical applications. For instance, in autoimmune disease, effector T cells are overly activated and cause damage to body. Converting these cells into regulatory T cells could help reduce the hyperactivity and return balance to the immune system, thus treating the root of the disease.

In addition, the study could improve therapies using . At least in theory, producing regulatory T cells could promote  and prevent the body from rejecting newly-transplanted cells.

“Our work could also contribute to ongoing efforts in immuno-oncology and the treatment of cancer,” explained Tao Xu, postdoctoral scholar in Ding’s laboratory and first author of the study. “This type of therapy doesn’t target the cancer directly, but rather works on activating the immune system so it can recognize  and attack them.”

Many cancers take control of regulatory T cells to suppress the immune system, creating an environment where tumors can grow without being detected. In such cases, the team’s findings could be used to transform regulatory T cells into effector T cells to strengthen the immune system so it can better recognize and destroy  .

 Link discovered between immune system, brain structure and memory


Link discovered between immune system, brain structure and memory
The thickness of the cerebral cortex is correlated with the epigenetic profile of immune-related genes. Credit: University of Basel, Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences

In two independent studies, scientists at the University of Basel have demonstrated that both the structure of the brain and several memory functions are linked to immune system genes. The scientific journals Nature Communications and Nature Human Behaviour have published the results of the research.

The body’s immune system performs essential functions, such as defending against bacteria and cancer cells. However, the human brain is separated from immune cells in the bloodstream by the so-called blood-brain barrier. This barrier protects the brain from pathogens and toxins circulating in the blood, while also dividing the  of the human body into those that fulfill their function in the blood and those that work specifically in the brain. Until recently, it was thought that brain  was largely unaffected by the peripheral immune system.

However, in the past few years, evidence has accumulated to indicate that the blood’s immune system could in fact have an impact on the brain. Scientists from the University of Basel’s Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences (MCN) have now carried out two independent studies that demonstrate that this link between the immune system and brain is more significant than previously believed.

Search for regulatory patterns

In the first study, the researchers searched for epigenetic profiles, i.e. regulatory patterns, in the blood of 533 young, healthy people. In their genome-wide search, they identified an epigenetic profile that is strongly correlated with the thickness of the cerebral cortex, in particular in a region of the brain that is important for . This finding was confirmed in an independent examination of a further 596 people. It also showed that it is specifically those genes that are responsible for the regulation of important immune functions in the blood that explain the link between the epigenetic profile and the properties of the brain.

Gene variant intensifies traumatic memories

In the second study, the researchers investigated the genomes of healthy participants who remembered negative images particularly well or particularly poorly. A variant of the TROVE2 gene, whose role in immunological diseases is currently being investigated, was linked to participants’ ability to remember a particularly high number of negative images, while their general  remained unaffected.

This gene variant also led to increased activity in specific regions of the brain that are important for the memory of emotional experiences. The researchers also discovered that the gene is linked to the strength of traumatic memories in people who have experienced traumatic events.

The results of the two studies show that both brain structure and memory are linked to the activity of  that also perform important immune regulatory functions in the blood. “Although the precise mechanisms behind the links we discovered still need to be clarified, we hope that this will ultimately lead to new treatment possibilities,” says Professor Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Co-Director of the University of Basel’s MCN research platform. The immune system can be precisely affected by certain medications, and such medications could also have a positive effect on impaired brain functions.

Innovative research methods

These groundbreaking findings were made possible thanks to cutting edge neuroscientific and genetic methods at the University of Basel’s MCN research platform. Under the leadership of Professor Andreas Papassotiropoulos and Professor Dominique de Quervain, the  aims to help us better understand human  functions and to develop new treatments for psychiatric disorders.

This Popular Ketchup Damages Your, Liver, Metabolism, Immune System, Nervous System and Brain


Many of you are not aware of the method of labeling ingredients in food products. Namely, companies list the ingredients according to the amounts added to the food, from the most to the least.

 This is important as it gives you an opportunity to control what you consume.

When it comes to Heinz ketchup, we strongly advise you to stay away from it, and we give the most important reasons:

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Heinz ketchup is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, and this would have been evident if the company did not list the same ingredients twice under a different name, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup.

This ingredient acts as sugar in the body when metabolized, and raises the blood sugar levels, and endangers the functioning of the liver. It is derived from GMO and causes obesity, weight gain, heart diseases, diabetes, and weakened immune system.

Distilled Vinegar and Sugar

Despite the high fructose corn syrup, they have also added additional sugar- even 4 extra grams of sugar per tablespoon!

In the end, they add distilled vinegar, which is another GMO corn ingredient.

Therefore, this product contains three GMO ingredients, sugar, chemicals, and actually no place for any nutrients! Does this sound healthy, does it actually sound like a food?

The list of ingredients continues with additives, salt, onion powder, no fiber, no protein, and no nutritional value.

Therefore, we advise you to never consume this ketchup again!

Source: healinglifeisnatural.com

We were wrong – the testes are connected to the immune system.


We’ll have to rewrite the textbooks… again.

 

Some parts of the body – including the tissues of the brain and testes – have long been considered to be completely hidden from our immune system.

Last year scientists made the amazing discovery that a set of previously unseen channels connected the brain to our immune system; now, it appears we might also need to rethink the immune system’s relationship with the testes, potentially explaining why some men are infertile and how some cancer vaccines fail to provide immunity.

 Researchers from University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered a ‘very small door’ which allows the testes to expose some of its antigens to the immune system without letting it inside.

For the past four decades the testes have been regarded as having ‘immune privilege‘, meaning they don’t mount an immune response when introduced to materials the immune system considers foreign.

Together with the brain, eyes, and placenta, inflammation in these parts of the body would be seriously bad news, which could explain why they are all physically or chemically hidden from the white cells and antibodies which protect us from infection.

This ‘immunity from immunity’ means any sperm outside of the testes can produce an autoimmune reaction, proving that the body considers its own sperm as foreign.

At least that’s the current thinking, which might need to be modified if this new research is verified.

Separating the sperm-producing tissues in the testes from the blood vessels is a layer of tissue called Sertoli cells, serving as a kind of nurse cell to the developing sperm.

 Sertoli cells lock together in such a way that they effectively form what’s called a ‘blood-testes barrier‘, preventing T-cells in the blood from sniffing out the growing sperm.

The system works well, but isn’t foolproof – in up to 12 percent of men with spontaneous infertility, the immune system recognises a chemical on the surface of sperm cells called the meiotic germ cell antigen (MGCA), suggesting they’ve met previously and don’t tolerate it as native to the body.

The immunologists hypothesised this particular autoimmune response might say more about a break-down in tolerance than a break in the blood-testes barrier, suggesting that there were reasons to suspect MGCA wasn’t as hidden as previously thought.

By focussing on two types of MGCA in normal and genetically altered mice and analysing the mouse’s T-cell tolerance to the antigens, the researchers found the Sertoli cells can ‘leak’ some types of the antigen into the blood vessels.

“In essence, we believe the testes antigens can be divided into those which are sequestered [behind the barrier] and those that are not,” said researcher Kenneth Tung.

Not only could this discovery provide insight into how infertility can arise in some men, it could also help immunologists understand how cancer cells sequester, or hide, their own antigens, explaining why certain cancer vaccines can fail.

“Antigens which are not sequestered would not be very good cancer vaccine candidates,” said Tung.

So far the research has only been done on mice and is yet to be confirmed in humans, but it lays the groundwork for exciting new research into the subtle interactions across a wall which was previously considered to be impermeable to the immune system.

Just last year a team of researchers from the same university uncovered a network of channels in the nervous system of mice and humans that crossed a similar barrier between the blood and the brain, prompting excitement at having the ‘rewrite the textbooks‘.

Once again, it might seem the guides on immunology might need a new edition.

Soure:The Journal of Clinical Investigation.