From Wyss: “Bioelectricity is a new weapon to fight dangerous infection”

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Wyss Institute

May 26, 2017
Kim Thurler, Tufts University

Drugs already approved for other uses in people help frogs survive deadly E. coli by changing their cells’ electrical charge.

Changing the natural electrical signaling that exists in cells outside the nervous system can improve resistance to life-threatening bacterial infections, according to new research from Tufts University biologists. The researchers found that administering drugs, including those already used in humans for other purposes, to make the cell interior more negatively charged strengthens tadpoles’ innate immune response to E. coli infection and injury. This reveals a novel aspect of the immune system – regulation by non-neural bioelectricity – and suggests a new approach for clinical applications in human medicine. The study is published online May 26, 2017, in npj Regenerative Medicine, a Nature Research journal.

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How bioelectricity strengthens the innate immune response (Credit: Jean-Francois Pare/Tufts University)

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The Wyss (pronounced “Veese”) Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world.

Working as an alliance among Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Tufts University, and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs.

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