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Turkey and Immunity

November 24, 2005

Tryptophan is a chemical found in turkey. Seinfeld mocked it for making people sleepy, but science reporter Bob Hirshon learned that it could hold the key to new medicines for multiple sclerosis.


BOB HIRSHON (host):Talking turkey about tryptophan. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When you eat your Thanksgiving turkey this year, you may want to give thanks for your immune system. An overreacting immune system can cause the body to attack itself. In multiple sclerosis, or MS, that leads to paralysis. Recently, researchers led by Stanford neurologist Lawrence Steinman showed that they could treat MS-like paralysis in mice using chemicals called tryptophan metabolites. These chemicals occur naturally in the body after eating turkey.

LAWRENCE STEINMAN (Stanford University):
It was able to actually reverse paralysis in these mice in a manner that is a fair approximation of what might happen in multiple sclerosis.

And while Steinman says eating turkey won’t cure MS or other diseases, his research may lead to new treatments.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.