Microbes on the surface of the skin help the immune system to respond to injury and heal wounds.
Immunity research has historically focused on the response to pathogens and inflammation, and so relatively little is known about how our own microbiota interact with and regulate the immune system. Yasmine Belkaid at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and her colleagues set out to understand how the immune system senses and responds to microbes living on the body. Studying mice, they found that after injury, the immune system recruits different molecules to detect skin microbes than it uses to sense pathogens, and that its response to certain microbes encourages tissue repair.
Future research will explore whether the findings apply to humans, and whether a deeper understanding of certain microbes’ role in immunity could lead to novel approaches to tissue repair, a fundamental challenge in medicine.