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Macrophages adhering to the surface of larvae of the nematode parasite Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri.

The larvae of parasitic worms (brown) affect the production of enzymes (red) by immune cells (blue and orange). Credit: Dr. Julia Esser-von Bieren, Dr. Arndt von Bieren

Immunology

A worm that infests mouse guts supplies a remedy for inflammation

Airway inflammation improves in mice dosed with a protein from an intestinal parasite.

Not all intestinal parasites are bad. New research shows that products from some gut-dwelling worms can ease inflammation and treat asthma — at least in mice.

Julia Esser-von Bieren at the Helmholtz Center Munich in Germany and her colleagues used dust mites to trigger an allergic reaction in mice. Then, the researchers treated the animals with an extract made by grinding the immature form of Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri, a rodent parasite that is known to dampen immune responses. The treatment reduced inflammation in the rodents’ airways. The worm extract also slowed the activity and movement of immune cells grown in a laboratory dish, including cells from people with a persistent inflammatory disease of the sinuses and lungs.

The researchers traced the extract’s benefits to the worm protein glutamate dehydrogenase, which decreases the body’s levels of inflammatory molecules and boosts cells’ production of chemicals that counter inflammation. When given to mice with asthma, glutamate dehydrogenase reduced inflammation of the rodents’ airways.

The findings could lead to new worm-based treatments for inflammatory conditions, the researchers say.

More Research Highlights...

Selected materials found in the gut contents of Tollund Man

The intestinal contents of a man killed in a prehistoric ritual (clockwise from upper left): barley, charred food that had been encrusted in a clay pot, flax seeds and sand. Credit: Peter Steen Henriksen, the Danish National Museum

Archaeology

The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

Tollund Man, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, ate well before he was hanged.
Illustration of Earth with white lines showing the magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field (depicted as white lines in this artist’s impression) can be studied with observations from a constellation of commercial satellites. Credit: Mikkel Juul Jensen/Science Photo Library

Geophysics

Telecoms satellites’ new purpose: spying on Earth’s magnetic field

Clues to the forces generated by the planet’s core emerge from observations intended for satellite navigation.
Ageing of an artwork with graphene

After 130 hours of artificial ageing by visible light, the painting Triton and Nereid has lost some of the purple tint to the figures’ right, but a graphene film kept the bright pink at upper left undimmed. Credit: M. Kotsidi et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Materials science

A graphene cloak keeps artworks’ colours ageless

A layer of carbon atoms preserves a painting’s vibrant hues — and can be applied and removed without damage.
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