||IVI scientist discovers M cells, gatekeepers in the mucosal immune system, in the intestinal epithelium
The Science Weekly newspaper
April 26, 2004
A joint study by Korean scientists and a Japanese research team has discovered that M cells - mucosal immune cells that were thought to exist only in inductive tissues - also exist in the intestinal epithelium away from inductive tissue.
M cells are cells that play the role of gatekeeper, protecting the body from various bacteria, microorganisms, or vaccine antigens that enter the body from outside.
But there are still many cells in mucosal tissues whose roles have not been determined, and the immunologic characteristics of M cells, the basic of the mucosal cells, have not been fully revealed. As a result, M cells have been recognized by the academic community as elusive objects that are difficult to tackle.
This new discovery is believed to have laid the foundation for the treatment of diseases that occur only in mucosal tissues.
Dr. Mina Kweon, chief of the Mucosal Immunology Section at the International Vaccine Institute, and Dr. Hiroshi Kiyono, University of Tokyo, said they have confirmed that M-cells exist in mucosal tissues without inductive tissues by using mice whose inductive tissues were removed.
The study was published in the April 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PANS), a world-renowned academic journal. The researchers conducted experiments on the small intestine of mice whose inductive tissue was removed, by applying Ulex europaeus agglutinin (UEA-1), a material that responds to M-cells. The researchers also examined whether these M cells uptake antigens from outside, and find that they possess the ability to uptake actual bacterial antigens.
The team of researchers including Dr. Kweon have added new findings to conventional theories and confirmed the possibility of developing mucosal vaccines targeted at M cells.
"The M cell is a cell whose immunological characteristics have not been revealed, and is one of the most difficult objects to tackle in mucosal research," said Dr. Kweon of the IVI. "The findings from our three-year research project are expected to provide a breakthrough in research on diseases that occur in mucosal tissues."