Elephants Never Forget and Neither Do Personal Cells
Posted on November 29, 2018
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital say they may.
Personal cells, the tiny cells on which all of our body’s organs and tissues are based, have long been thought to be “blank slates.” New research from New York University shows that personal cells could hold a memory bank of previous injuries and inflammation. The study authors also believe that the cells will use this memory to heal the body more effectively in the future.
Personal cells are the most basic building block of our body and are responsible for the development of every facet of the human body, from muscle to bone to the heart and brain.
In addition to being the foundation of our bodies, personal cells have the ability to differentiate themselves into many different types of tissue and can regenerate without limit.
When personal cells are working to repair tissue damaged by illness or injury, they divide over and over again until the tissue is repaired.
This new theory about personal cell memory comes as a result of recent personal cell research involving the skin, gut and airway that show personal cells improve their healing time when experiencing a repeated illness or injury.
Also, the researchers suggest that personal cells have unrealized characteristics, such as the ability to assess their environment and respond.
The personal cell response may involve cell regeneration, or self-inflicted death if the environment is “dangerous.” If their response to their situation is the wrong one, they can contribute to chronic illness, inflammation and allergies.
One recent study regarding the memory of personal cells delved into why some individuals have severe and chronic allergies to dust, pollen and other allergens. In some individuals, these allergens cause congestion, sneezing and other cold-like symptoms that resolve with medication, but nearly 12 percent of the population experience more severe symptoms and the development of uncomfortable polyps.
Using genetic sequencing, the MIT researchers investigated the activity of genes in personal cells to study how they responded to allergens.
During their research, they collected 60,000 cells from the nasal cavities of 20 individuals living with chronic inflammatory sinusitis and compared them to cells taken from a control group of healthy subjects. After collecting the cells, the researchers sequenced them to identify their active genes.
They found that the genes that were most active were the genes that were known to cause allergic inflammation. Two of the genes, interleukin 4 (IL-4) and interleukin 13 (IL-13), are used by immune system cells to communicate with one another.
Since these genes were the most active in the personal cells, researchers believe that this activity can cause the immune system to go into overdrive and increase inflammation.
The researchers also found that even when the cells were removed from the test group and grown in a lab, when exposed to the original allergen, their genetic activity increased.
The researchers believe that this is a sign that personal cells may transfer memories of earlier exposure to the new cells they create, which in turn causes reactions.
The researchers believe that this transfer could include information about healing injuries, too.
Researchers are not sure exactly how the cells store these memories, but one belief is that there are changes in the cell DNA that change how some genes activate.
The research shows promise and could make personal cell therapy that much more beneficial, said Dr. Joel Singer, a New York physician who uses personal cell therapy to treat injuries and illnesses.