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Skin Microbes & Immunity

August 16, 2012

Bacteria that live on our skin support the function of immune cells.



Our skin’s microbial defenses.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The microbes that live on our skin may prepare our immune systems for success.  This according to immunologist Yasmine Belkaid of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She and her colleagues studied mice that were completely free of skin microbes – and found their immune response lacking.

YASMINE BELKAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases):

They did not have any development of the immune system. The T cells that were present in the skin were not producing cytokines.

Cytokines are signaling molecules that helps drive the immune response. Without them, the microbe-free mice couldn’t mount effective skin defenses against a parasite. But when those mice were colonized with bacteria commonly found on human skin, the immune response improved. Next, Belkaid says they’d like to find out if specific microbes play different roles in our skin’s complex defense system.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Bacteria on our skin helps our immune system protect us. (Jupiter Images)