Study: our immune system also protects against colon cancer

Protection mechanism discovered: How the immune system protects against bowel cancer

Again and again, it is pointed out how important it is to strengthen its defenses. A healthy immune system can fend off pathogens and diseases preserve. It may even protect against the most serious diseases such as colon cancer.

One of the most common causes of cancer deaths

According to health experts, colon cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in Germany. Many diseases could be prevented if more people would regularly go to the screening. The colonoscopy is especially important if it is in the family of colorectal cancer cases. In addition, the colorectal cancer risk through a healthy lifestyle reduce. Also important is the innate immune system is apparently.

Immune system not only ensures the defence of pathogens

Researchers at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have discovered a mechanism of protection to preserve the body of his intestinal stem cells against the degeneration of tumors.

According to a communication from the clinic play a key role in the innate immune system.

These findings make it clear that the immune system pathogens far beyond the mere prevention of disease, for the healthy function of the body.

Was published the study in the journal “Nature”.

Changes in the genetic material of the cells

As it says in the notice that meet in the intestine of two worlds: The body’s own cells of the intestinal wall on the one hand, and foreign Material such as bacteria or food, and their degradation products, on the other hand.

Both worlds – the body’s own and foreign to the body – are in direct contact, and the exchange of ongoing information.

For the body this is important: Many of the environmental factors, such as certain strains of bacteria or essential nutrients that are useful or even essential for survival.

However, the contact with the environment can have for the organism also has negative consequences: Some foreign substances cause changes in the genetic material of the cells lining the intestinal wall.

If such DNA accumulate damage, in particular in the stem cells of the intestinal wall, these can develop into a colorectal tumor.

Development of colon cancer prevent

Thus, it is not only to tumor formation, can repair a damaged cell, their DNA or – in case of extensive damage – “altruistic suicide” (called apoptosis).

So far, it was assumed that the stem cell uses this repair mechanism independently.

However, the study under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Andreas Diefenbach, Director of the Institute for Microbiology and infection immunology, Charité, comes to a different conclusion:

The immune system can amplify the DNA repair mechanism in the damaged stem cell and the development of colon cancer prevent.

Mutagenic environmental factors

The Team led by Prof. Diefenbach could work together to show with other research groups in the mouse model, cells of the innate immune system, mutagenic environmental factors such as certain Glucosinolates in the gut.

Glucosinolates are compounds of plants, which are found in many of the cabbage species. The immune cells are harmful Glucosinolates, send the messenger substance, Interleukin 22.

This, in turn, causes the stem cells can discover in the intestinal wall, any damage to your DNA earlier and faster repair.

“The immune system acts as a Sensor for mutagenic constituents of the food,” explains Prof. Diefenbach.

“We disable the Sensor, we observe a significantly increased number of colorectal cancer cases”, the BIH-Professor of precision medicine with a focus on microbiome research and head of the working group in Mucosal immunology at the German rheumatism research centre, Berlin.

Complex interaction should be investigated in more detail

For Prof. Diefenbach these findings not only point to a previously unknown regulatory circuit, with which the body protects itself from colon cancer. They also point out that the task of the immune system involves far more than the defense of pathogens.

“The immune system is monitored, rather, to the healthy growth and the function of various organs of the body,” says the immunologist.

In the future, he wants to share with his Team, the complex interaction between Food components, and intestinal bacteria, the intestinal wall and the immune system in more detail to investigate.