Colleagues at Cornell University and I have used the fruit fly, Drosophila to tease apart the relationship between immunity and the gut microbiome. The work (which took six years to complete) is to be published in Immunity (impact factor 20 for the ‘metricists’ out there) and has major significance because it starts to explain how the human immune response ‘tolerates’ the billions of ‘good’ bacteria in our body.
Many animals carry billions of bacteria in their intestines which are critical for the digestion of ingested foods. This poses a problem for immune cells because signs of the bacteria regularly end up outside the gut and in circulation. Normally, bacterial signals would elicit a powerful immune system but it would be bad news if the gut microbiome was targeted for destruction by immune cells. How this cordial relationship is maintained is therefore of major interest to immunologists and medical science because it has implications for how we understand inflammatory diseases.
We show for the first time that cells called nephrocytes remove bacterial signals (proteoglycans that make bacterial cell walls) from circulation and that this dampens immune responses. Disruption of this removal system causes immune cells to be over-active – a state not unlike chronic inflammation.
I’m duty bound as a basic scientist to make the point that this work also impacts our understanding of insect ecology. Having an over-active immune system shortened the lifespan of Drosophila – an effect likely to be seen in ecologically and medically important species such as honeybees and mosquitoes. How immune responses are affected by the environment in these species is also a very hot topic of research – one that can also be modeled in Drosophila.
Paul Hartley (Dept of Life and Environmental Sciences)
The Physiological Society is Europe’s largest network of physiologists, so it was a great privilege to be invited to give a plenary talk at the Renal physiology: Recent advances and emerging concepts satellite symposia in Aberdeen last week. This followed on from work conducted at BU using fruit flies to study human kidney function and which most recently contributed to research published in Nature Communications. We’ve been studying insect cells called nephrocytes for several years because of their tractability and genetic similarity to human kidney cells called podocytes – cells crucial to the kidney’s role in filtration and excretion. The insects cells offer us opportunities to modulate genes and infer what may happen in human diseases. The Nature Comms paper and Phys Soc talk detailed the work we collaborated on that identified a metabolic pathway in podocytes governed by a gene called GSK3, this pathway now represents a potential target for the control of kidney disease in diabetics.
This week saw the successful launch of an important new partnership between Bournemouth University (BU), the local NHS, charities and industry. The aim is using innovation to drive forward improvements in healthcare outcomes for people across Dorset. This ‘Transforming Healthcare Through Innovation’ event marked the start of a formal partnership between BU and Dorset’s Integrated Care System (ICS), which is a partnership of all NHS and local authorities in the county. This partnership fits very well with BU’s Strategic Investment Area (SIA) Medical Science. The development of Medical Science is a core component of BU2025.
It was widely recognised that the social and behavioural sciences are essential to health and health care. Dr. Phil Richardson from the NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, who leads the ICS, stressed the importance of moving from a medical model of public health to a more social model. This ties in closely with sociological work on the medical/social model conducted at BU in maternity care [1-6].
Also at the launch event Dr. Caroline Ellis-Hill highlighted the importance of humanising care in a hands-on session. BU academics in have developed a philosophically-driven approach to caring, health and wellbeing based on humanising practices. The theoretical underpinning was originally developed by BU Prof. Les Todres and colleagues [7-11]. Humanising practice is supported by work settings that encourage connection to personal experience and research which privileges subjective experience and knowing; such as phenomenology, narrative, auto-ethnography, embodied knowing and arts–based approaches.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health
- van Teijlingen E. (2005) A critical analysis of the medical model as used in the study of pregnancy and childbirth, Sociological Research Online, 10 (2)
- MacKenzie Bryers H., van Teijlingen, E. (2010) Risk, Theory, Social & Medical Models: critical analysis of the concept of risk in maternity care, Midwifery 26(5): 488-496.
- Brailey, S., Luyben, A., Firth, L, van Teijlingen, E. (2017) Women, midwives & medical model of maternity care in Switzerland, International Journal of Childbirth 7(3): 117-125.
- van Teijlingen, E. (2017) The medical and social model of childbirth, Kontakt 19(2): e73-e74
- Luce, A., Cash, M., Hundley, V., Cheyne, H., van Teijlingen, E., Angell, C. (2016) “Is it realistic?” the portrayal of pregnancy and childbirth in the media BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth 16: 40 http://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-016-0827-x
- Taylor, A., van Teijlingen, E., Ryan, K., Alexander, J. (2019) ‘Scrutinised, judged and sabotaged’: A qualitative video diary study of first-time breastfeeding mothers, Midwifery 75: 16-23.
- Todres, L., Galvin, K.T., Holloway, I. (2009) The humanization of healthcare: A value framework for qualitative research, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 4:2, 68-77, DOI: 10.1080/17482620802646204
- Galvin, K., Todres, L. (2013) Caring and Wellbeing. London: Routledge.
- Hemingway, A, Scammel, J., Heaslip, V. (2012) Humanising nursing care: a theoretical model. Nursing Times 108 (40) / www.nursingtimes.net
- Scammel,J ,Hemingway, A., Heaslip,V. (2012) Humanising values at the heart of nursing education. Nursing Times 108 (41)/ www.nursingtimes.net
- Scammell, J., Tait, D. (2014) Using humanising values to support care. Nursing Times 110 (15) / www.nursingtimes.net