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UC Davis researchers discover how cells distinguish friend from foe

Researchers at UC Davis have shown how the innate immune system distinguishes between dangerous pathogens and friendly microbes. Like burglars entering a house, hostile bacteria give themselves away by breaking into cells. However, sensing proteins instantly detect the invasion, triggering an alarm that mobilizes the innate immune response. This new understanding of immunity could ultimately help researchers find new targets to treat inflammatory disorders. The paper was published in Nature on March 31.

The immune system has a number of difficult tasks, including differentiating between cells and microbes. However, the body, particularly the digestive tract, contains trillions of beneficial microbes, which must be distinguished from dangerous pathogens.

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