Protein may boost body's defence system against infections and cancer

January 23, 2009 by Suzanne Morrison,

( -- To boost our immune system, health experts remind us to get a good night's sleep, drink plenty of fluids and eat a well-balanced diet. Researchers at McMaster University have added a new finding to the list of ways in which we can lead healthier lives.

Researchers in McMaster's Institute of Molecular Medicine and Health, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, have discovered that a protein called FimH has the ability to not only fight microbial infections such as the flu, but cancer as well by boosting the body's inborn defense system.

"(FimH) has great potential as an innate microbicide, particularly against infections for which we don't have a vaccine, such as influenza," said lead author Ali Ashkar, associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.

The researchers also found FimH can be effectively added to a vaccine to enhance a person's immune response.

Our immune system defends us against infectious diseases such as viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause infectious diseases - from the ordinary flu to full-blown malaria. Traditionally, antibiotics and antiviral drugs are used to fight them.

"Another way to fight these diseases," Ashkar said, "is to empower our own defense system to deal with the infections, or cancer. This is the basis for emerging interest in factors/molecules which can boost our very own innate defense system."

The McMaster research appears in the on-line edition of PLOS Pathogens, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science.

In their paper, the researchers demonstrated the biological significance of the interaction between FimH and a set of evolutionary conserved receptors, including the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), that are found on the surface of epithelial cells at the mucosal surface.

"In the context of a natural infection, recognition of FimH by TLR4 is important for the host to mount an innate immune response against uropathogenic E.Coli (which causes 90 per cent of urinary tract infections)," the researchers said in their paper. The researchers also showed purified FimH protein induces a potent innate antiviral response, both in tissue culture and in animal models.

"Our results suggest that FimH is an excellent candidate for development as a microbicide against pathogen infection," the researchers reported in PLOS Pathogen.

The McMaster Industry Liaison Office (MILO) has filed a provisional US patent for the use of the FimH protein as an anti-microbial and anti-cancer agent.

Provided by McMaster University

Explore further: New imaging approach offers unprecedented views of staph infection

Related Stories

New imaging approach offers unprecedented views of staph infection

March 14, 2018
Eric Skaar, PhD, MPH, marvels at the images on his computer screen—3-D molecular-level views of infection in a mouse. "I'm pretty convinced that these are the most advanced images in infection biology," said Skaar, Ernest ...

Using nature's designs will speed up critical development of new antibiotics

February 23, 2018
"I did not invent penicillin. Nature did that. I only discovered it by accident.—Alexander Fleming

Gene knockout using new CRISPR tool makes mosquitoes highly resistant to malaria parasite

March 8, 2018
Deleting a single gene from mosquitoes can make them highly resistant to the malaria parasite and thus much less likely to transmit the parasite to humans, according to a new paper from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

Study shows how body prevents potentially useful bacteria from causing disease

February 7, 2018
A new study reveals a mechanism by which the immune system may decide whether a bacterial species is a partner in bodily processes or an invader worthy of attack.

Discovery offers new genetic pathway for injured nerve regeneration

January 25, 2018
On the hunt for genes involved in regenerating critical nerve fibers called axons, biologists at the University of California San Diego came away with a surprise: The discovery of a new genetic pathway that carries hope for ...

Re-programming innate immune cells to fight tuberculosis

January 11, 2018
Tuberculosis (TB), an infectious disease which attacks the lungs, claims a life every 20 seconds and 1.5 million lives worldwide every year. A cure has eluded scientists for more than a century but, now, a Montreal team of ...

Recommended for you

Breakthrough article on mechanistic features of microRNA targeting and activity

March 23, 2018
Giovanna Brancati and Helge Grosshans from the FMI have described target specialization of miRNAs of the let-7 family. They identified target site features that determine specificity, and revealed that specificity can be ...

Boosting enzyme may help improve blood flow, fitness in elderly

March 22, 2018
As people age, their blood-vessel density and blood flow decrease, which is why it's harder to maintain muscle mass after 40 and endurance in the later decades, even with exercise. This vascular decline is also one of the ...

Scientists pinpoint cause of vascular aging in mice

March 22, 2018
We are as old as our arteries, the adage goes, so could reversing the aging of blood vessels hold the key to restoring youthful vitality?

Sulfur amino acid restriction diet triggers new blood vessel formation in mice

March 22, 2018
Putting mice on a diet containing low amounts of the essential amino acid methionine triggered the formation of new blood vessels in skeletal muscle, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ...

Cold can activate body's 'good' fat at a cellular level, study finds

March 21, 2018
Lower temperatures can activate the body's 'good' fat formation at a cellular level, a new study led by academics at The University of Nottingham has found.

Gradual release of immunotherapy at site of tumor surgery prevents tumors from returning

March 21, 2018
A new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists suggests it may be possible to prevent tumors from recurring and to eradicate metastatic growths by implanting a gel containing immunotherapy during surgical removal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.