Microbes inhabit just about every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the gut, and up the nose. Sometimes they cause sickness, but most of the time, microorganisms live in harmony with their human hosts, providing vital functions essential for human survival. For the first time, a consortium of researchers organized by the National Institutes of Health has mapped the normal microbial makeup of healthy humans, producing numerous insights and even a few surprises.
A number of studies have asserted that moderate drinking has a positive benefit on cardiovascular health. Now, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered how alcohol consumption can help to prevent heart disease. The research, published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, studied the effects of moderate amounts of alcohol in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells and in the carotid arteries of mice . In both cases, regular, limited amounts of alcohol inhibited a protein called Notch 1 and prevented the buildup of smooth muscle cells in blood vessels that leads to the narrowing of the arteries and can put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
The gene Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) encodes a cytokine, a signaling molecule secreted by immune cells that has an effect on other cells and is involved in inflammation. A recent report in Cell Host and Microbe reveals that in the gut, GM-CSF helps protect against infection by a bacterial pathogen .
GM-CSF has long been known to promote the survival and differentiation of dendritic cells, immune cells that are present in small quantities in tissues that are in contact with the external environment, including the skin and the inner lining of the nose, lungs, stomach and intestines. Dendritic cells are immune modulators that originate in the bone marrow and travel through the blood and lymph to the peripheral tissues in an immature state. Once they arrive, they differentiate and function as professional “antigen presenting cells”: they alert T cells and B cells to the presence of any foreign invaders. The T and B cells then mount an immune response.