The epithelial cells that line the intestines fire bacteria-fighting “bullets” into the gut, Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered.
The findings, featured on the cover of the April 10 issue of Current Biology, represent a new mechanism for defending the body against gut microbes.
The surfaces of intestinal epithelial cells are covered by microvilli – specialized structures that project, like thousands of tiny fingers, into the lumen of the gut. The “textbook” view of the microvilli is that they increase the cellular surface area for absorbing and processing nutrients, said Matthew Tyska, associate professor of cell and developmental biology.
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