Salk Institute researchers have discovered that muscle wasting, a common symptom of infections, could play a role in battling diseases.
The study, conducted by Professor Janelle Ayres’ lab, found that wasting in response to T. brucei infection in mice occurs in two phases regulated by different immune cells.
Fat loss did not aid in the fight against infection, but muscle loss did, which suggests that some forms of wasting could help manage illness.
These findings, published in Cell Reports, could help develop more effective treatments that prevent people from experiencing wasting and enhance our understanding of how wasting impacts survival and morbidity in infections, cancers, chronic illnesses, and more.
The Role of T cells
Researchers were interested in exploring the role of T cells in causing wasting.
They focused on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, which play crucial roles in the immune response to infections. The team hypothesized that these T cells could work together in causing wasting.
To understand the relationship between CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and wasting, the researchers used the T. brucei parasite, which resides in fat and can block the adaptive immune response, including T cells. This made it an ideal model for their study.
The researchers discovered that CD4+ T cells initiated the process of fat wasting, followed by CD8+ T cells triggering muscle wasting.
However, fat wasting induced by CD4+ T cells did not impact the mice’s ability to fight or survive the T. brucei infection.
Contrarily, muscle wasting initiated by CD8+ T cells helped mice combat the infection, challenging traditional assumptions about wasting.
In the future, the team plans to examine the T cell mechanism in other mammals and eventually humans.
They are also interested in further understanding why muscle wasting is occurring and why CD4+ and CD8+ T cells play these distinct roles.
These findings could potentially aid in treating and overcoming diseases that involve immune-mediated wasting.
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The study was published in Cell Reports.
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