News Health/Medical How Bacterial Infections Influence Our Immune Response
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How Bacterial Infections Influence Our Immune Response

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore and the University of Toulouse, France, have delved into the intricate dance between bacteria, toxins, and our immune system. Their findings shed light on how inflammation, a double-edged sword, can both protect and harm our health.

The Role of Inflammation

Inflammation is a vital defense mechanism. It helps combat infections and facilitates tissue repair. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

Unraveling the Connection

The study reveals a direct link between ionophores (molecules that regulate ion movement in and out of cells), salt content within human cells, and inflammation. Specifically:

  • When potassium ions drop below a critical level, cells trigger an immune response.
  • Strong pro-inflammatory molecules are released, causing pain, fever, and tissue damage during infections.

Genes at Play

Previously, the NLRP3 gene was known to control this process in the blood. Now, NTU Singapore and University of Toulouse researchers highlight the role of two genes—NLRP1 and ZAKα—in human organs such as the skin, lungs, and nose.

Energy Balance Matters

Assistant Professor Franklin Zhong from NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine explains, "Cells expend energy to maintain the delicate balance of sodium and potassium ions across their membranes. Disruptions in this balance can lead to neurological disorders and heart failure. Our study shows how the innate immune system detects ion imbalances, particularly during pathogen attacks."

Understanding these molecular intricacies provides new avenues for managing inflammation-related diseases and underscores the importance of maintaining cellular equilibrium.

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