Essential nutrient choline plays key role in shaping immune response

A recent study conducted by the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine lab has shed light on a previously undiscovered role played by an essential nutrient in shaping the cellular landscape for immune cells called macrophages, which are a crucial part of the body’s defense against infections.

Published in PLOS Pathogens, this research, led by Dr. Morgan Fullerton, has revealed that choline, a vital nutrient found in various foods, including eggs and meats, plays a significant role in the function of macrophages. By inhibiting choline metabolism in mice infected with intestinal worms, the study found surprising changes in the behavior and numbers of immune cells.

Dr. Peyman Ghorbani, the study’s first author, suggests that these changes could be linked to alterations in the ability of macrophages to generate energy through their mitochondria, which are essential cellular power sources.

This study, part of Dr. Fullerton’s lab’s efforts to explore the connection between metabolism and immunity, provides valuable insights into choline metabolism in immune cells. The findings indicate that manipulating nutrient utilization can reprogram both immune and non-immune cells, potentially influencing conditions like cancer.

Dr. Fullerton explains that certain cancer therapies aim to activate the immune system to combat cancer cells, similar to how it responds to infections. Changing choline levels with specific drugs might impact these conditions, although further testing in cells and mice is necessary.

Future research may involve genetic and tissue-specific models to delve deeper into the importance of choline uptake and metabolism. This study was a collaborative effort, involving experts from various fields and institutions, highlighting the significance of teamwork in advancing scientific knowledge.

Source: University of Ottawa

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