Green veges may boost gut health

From ABC News in Science, 4 March 2013:

Eating green leafy vegetables may boost a newly discovered genetic pathway that is essential for intestinal health, new research suggests.

The study has discovered a gene known as T-bet is responsible for production of a type of cell that helps repair the lining of the gut and maintain the balance of good and bad gut bacteria.

The results are reported today in Nature Immunology .

“There’s a group of immune cells that essentially regulate the good and the bad bacteria and it’s not been known how the body makes those cells,” says lead author Associate Professor Gabrielle Belz, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

“We’ve been looking at one of those genes that is responsible for one of those cell types actually being generated and collectively protecting the gut from infections and bad bacteria.”

Genetically-engineered mice with this particular gene ‘knocked out’ are much more susceptible to gut infections, she says.

The cells, called innate lymphoid cells (ILC), come in many different forms and serve a range of functions throughout the body. However in this case, the researchers focused on a particular type of innate lymphoid cell that produces a immune signalling protein called interleukin 22 (IL-22).

“IL22 is protective so it helps repair the epithelium [the cells lining the gut] and if the epithelium is intact then you tend not to get problems with differentiation that lead to cancer,” says Belz.

“Whereas if those cells don’t exist, it has been shown recently that it could lead to the development of cancer in a mouse model.” Read more.

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