Stem cells’ ‘memories’ of past injuries may contribute to chronic inflammation

chronic

Stem cells, famous for replenishing the body’s stockpile of other cell types throughout life, may have an additional, unforeseen ability to cache memories of past wounds and inflammation. New studies in the skin, gut and airways suggest that stem cells, often in partnership with the immune system, can use these memories to improve the responses of tissues to later injuries and pathogenic assaults.

But when those responses go wrong, they may cause or contribute to a variety of enduring health problems involving chronic inflammation, such as severe allergies and autoinflammatory disorders.

[The team] had set out to understand why some people suffer from debilitating chronic allergies to airborne dust, pollen and other substances. Most people experience at most a passing bout of coldlike symptoms from these irritants, but about 12 percent of the population has a severe reaction.

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They removed cells from the airways of allergy patients, grew them in culture for about five weeks, and then profiled their gene activity. They found that the genes involved in allergic inflammation were still active, even though the allergic threat of dust and pollen was long gone. In addition, the researchers described many of the cells as “stuck” in a less-than-fully-mature state.

For [Alex] Shalek, this result signals “that stem cells may transfer ‘memories’ to future generations of cells and this can cause near-permanent changes in the tissue they replenish.”

Read full, original post: Stem Cells Remember Tissues’ Past Injuries

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