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Sights set on immunization target

A RIKEN-led research team has unraveled the molecular details of a key mechanism of the immune system in the gut. The work opens the way to new possibilities for developing versatile, inexpensive vaccines that are swallowed, rather than injected.

“The description of this molecular pathway fills a gap in our understanding of the immune response of the digestive system,” says team leader Hiroshi Ohno. “And it provides molecular targets for compounds taken orally, and therefore offers the hope of an easy-to-administer, cost-effective weapon against infectious diseases and allergies.”

The mouth is the most significant entry point into the body for pathogens, allergens and poisons. Most of what comes into the body through the mouth moves through the digestive system. As a result, the lining of the gut houses the largest part of the entire immune system. It protects the body from disease organisms and foreign particles by secreting vast amounts of antibodies in the form of Immunoglobulin A.
 
 

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