The University of California Davis Medical Center recently discovered a new function of the body’s immune system through research on the protein HD6, also known as alpha-defensin 6. The discovery of HD6’s unique virus fighting methods helps researchers better understand how the body retaliates against bowel disease.
Defensins are antibiotic proteins found in nature. In humans, there are six alpha-defensins, five of which are known to destroy pathogens as part of the immune system. They do this by poking a hole in the pathogen’s membrane, effectively killing the virus.
HD6, however, does not fit the defensin trend.
Previous research conducted by UC Davis Professor Andreas Bäumler had shown that while HD6 protected mice from a lethal Salmonella infection, it did so without killing the Salmonella pathogen.
Charles L. Bevins, professor of microbiology and immunology at UC Davis, led a team to discover the unique nature of alpha-defensin 6. They found that instead of destroying pathogens, HD6 actually weaves a cobweb-like nanonet to entangle bacteria and prevent it from causing harm.
The web producing defensin resides in the small intestine, where bowel disease infections occur. Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, has been linked directly to deficiencies in both HD5 and HD6. Greater understanding about how these proteins work will shed light on how we can better combat Crohn’s disease and similar bowel diseases.
The University of California at Davis is an active research institution that attracts national funding. It has received $6 million in NSF funding and over $96 million in NIH grants in fiscal year 2012 alone, and awards have only begun to be announced for the current fiscal year. According to the website for the National Institute of Health, the NIH has doubled its funding for the School of Medicine in the past ten years, as shown in this graph:
[Graph sourced from National Health Institute]
To find more information about funding for the UC Davis Medical Center, click the button below:
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