All posts by M.E. Morgan

A More Personal Post

Andover Rooksbury Mill 02
Rooksbury Mill located in Andover, Hampshire UK
As you may have noticed, my posts have become a bit irregular in the last few weeks. This is due to the fact that I am about to start a new position as a medical writer in England. As you can imagine, this turn of events has caused quite a stir in my life.

While I found blogging immensely rewarding, I also discovered that it is also a lonely career choice. It’s easy to underestimate the value of simple coffee pause chatter and general social interactions when that’s the status quo. However, when your life becomes completely devoid of these simple gestures, it becomes less vibrant. I found myself longing for day-to-day connections.

Blogging also lacks mentors. Even though I started to take online classes to fill in the gaps of my writing knowledge, it was hard to gauge my progress. As a result, I was never quite certain if my style was improving or if it was even understandable. Moreover, I had personal issues with calling myself a medical writer when I had never before worked in the industry.

Now, all of this is about to change, and I am extremely excited to start a new chapter in my life. Unfortunately, this does have consequences for my blogs. I will be unable to provide weekly overviews of current research as I have been doing for the last year. My goal, once I am settled in my new country, is to post monthly overviews instead.

Also, I am considering posting blogs about my transition from academia to medical writing. I believe this topic may be of considerable interest to those also considering taking the jump.

I see this period not as a discontinuation but more as a bumpy transition to more interesting content. I won’t be gone for long.


M.E. Morgan


Macrophages Like IL-10 and DNA Methylation Regulates Tregs

This week on TIBDI, we see a plethora of interesting articles including a parallel publication about the necessity of IL-10 conditioning for gut macrophages and the ways that DNA methylation influences colon Treg proliferation.

IL10 Crystal Structure.rsh
IL-10 is an important conditioning factor for gut macrophages.
Intestinal Macrophages Need IL-10 Conditioning: Parallel Publication

Macrophages are an important immune cell of the intestines. For instance, CX3CR1hi macrophages capture antigens from the lumen by extending dendrites up through the epithelial layer and into the mucus to interact with passing bacteria. In the latest set of publications by the journal Immunity, parallel articles examine the relationship between macrophages and the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10. Using two different approaches, Dr. Ehud Zigmond of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and Dr. Dror S. Shouval of Harvard Medical School in the United States were able to make similar conclusions.

Dr. Zigmond, using macrophage-restricted Il-10-/- and Il-10ra-/- mice, determined that macrophages with deficient IL-10 secretion were not nearly so harmful to the gut as macrophages not being able to respond to IL-10. Losing the ability to be conditioned by IL-10 made the macrophages more pro-inflammatory and led to spontaneous colitis. Dr. Shouval approached his research by creating bone-marrow chimeras with Rag2-/-Il-10rb-/- bone marrow and using the T cell transfer model of colitis. He found that loss of IL-10 signaling in innate immune cells led to colitis development. His work, unlike that of Dr. Zigmond, revealed that IL-10 conditioned macrophages are needed for proper regulatory T cell (Treg) development, and mucosal immune tolerance. He also found that pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients with mutations in their IL-10 receptors also had more pro-inflammatory macrophages. This work may lead to insights about why IBD develops.

Colonic Treg Proliferation Needs Uhrf1

Finding the ways that epigenetic mechanisms control T cell function and numbers is an exciting new field of research. One of the latest Nature Immunology articles adds fuel to the fire by publishing the work of Dr. Yuuki Obata of the University of Tokyo in Japan. She found that the DNA-methylation adaptor Uhrf1 was needed for Treg proliferation in the colon. This was determined by profiling genes activated in proliferating Treg after colonization with bacteria. This was then confirmed using T cell-specific Uhrf1-/- mice. Loss of Uhrf1 led to hypomethylation of a cell-cycle gene and a loss of Treg division in the colon. As a consequence of the low Treg numbers, Uhrf1-/- mice developed spontaneous colitis. It will be interesting to see if the same results can be found in the human setting.


Vedolizumab Looks Promising and PPARδ Initiates Inflammation

This week’s TIBDI update discusses new evidence showing a gut specific role for Vedolizumab, the role of PPARδ in intestinal inflammation, and the interesting ability of segmented filamentous bacteria to induce lymphoid tissues.

Peyer patches MHCII-GFP mouse (2)
Even though SFB stimulate Peyer’s patches, Peyer’s patches are not needed for SFB immune responses.
Vedolizumab Demonstrates Gut Specificity

Vedolizumab is an antibody that blocks the α4β7 integrin, and the literature suggests that this leads to gut-specific inhibition of T cell infiltration during inflammation. This is an important characteristic because other Crohn’s disease (CD) therapies, which lead to systemic changes in immune responses, are associated with harmful infections. To further investigate this property, Dr. Tim Wyant of Takeda Pharmaceutical International coordinated a phase I trial with healthy volunteers. Each volunteer was given a dose of Vedolizumab and then subjected to either an injected hepatitis B vaccination, an oral cholera vaccination, or a matched placebo. Volunteers given Vedolizumab and vaccinated for hepatitis B had similar amounts of protective antibodies as the placebo group. However, in the groups given the oral cholera vaccination, the Vedolizumab-treated volunteers had significantly reduced amounts antibodies. This further supports the concept that Vedolizumab has selective effects on the gastrointestinal immune response.

PPARδ and Intestinal Inflammation

The transcription factor Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ (PPARδ) is highly expressed in the intestinal tract, and is believed to be involved with chronic inflammation. However, mouse studies looking at its involvement in colitis were not entirely conclusive. To shed more light on its role in colitis and colorectal cancer, Dr. Dingzhi Wang of Arizona State University engineered a PPARδ-deficient mouse. With this tool, he found that loss of PPARδ lowered the severity of the dextran sodium sulfate colitis model and reduced cellular infiltration and cytokine expression. PPARδ-deficiency also significantly reduced the emergence of colitis-associated tumor growth. Further experimentation demonstrated that PPARδ-deficiency reduced COX-2 expression and PGE2 production. PPARδ could be an interesting target for future inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) drugs.

Segmented Filamentous Bacteria Builds Its Own Centers

In a recent post, an article from the journal Immunity discussed the role of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) and dendritic cells in T helper 17 (Th17) cell development. This article was not alone. The journal also published a related article from another laboratory in the same issue. The companion article describes work by Dr. Emelyne Lécuyer of the Universite ́ Paris Descartes-Sorbonne. She looked at the relationship between SFB-dependent immune responses and gastrointestinal-associated lymphoid tissues. She found that lymphoid tissues generated during gestation and shortly after birth weren’t necessary for SFB-dependent responses. SFB; unlike a nonpathogenic, control bacteria; could induce tertiary lymphoid structures, which were capable of supporting both Th17 cell development and IgA responses.


Notch for Oral Tolerance and Integrin Targeting in Crohn’s Disease

This week on TIBDI! Notch signaling is needed for the development of antigen sampling macrophages, and blocking integrins on T cells leads to less migration and colitis.

Notch signaling appears to be necessary for the development of cells that sample luminal antigens.
Notch and Intestinal Antigen Samplers

Recent literature has brought to light that macrophage-like cells expressing the chemokine receptor CX3CR1 and the integrin CD11c are needed to continually survey the antigen contents of the intestinal lumen. However, very little was known about how these cells develop. In a new publication, Dr. Chieko Ishifune of The University of Tokushima Graduate School in Japan shows that Notch signaling is involved. The Notch family is a highly conserved set up receptors designed for local cell communication, and they are involved in immune cell development. Using targeted knock-out mice, the researchers found that the downstream transcriptional regulator Rbpj was necessary for CD11c+CX3CR1+cells. Moreover, Notch1 and Notch2 were also needed. These results will help scientists learn more about oral tolerance, which could play a role in IBD.

Integrin Targeting Supported for Crohn’s Disease

The integrin α4 is suspected to be important for the recruitment of T cells to intestinal tissues. This concept is supported by the success of two blocking antibodies, Natalizumab and Vedolizumab, in Crohn’s disease (CD) clinical trials. To precisely examine the role of integrins on T cells during colitis, Dr. Elvira Kurmaeva of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center transferred CD4+ T cells with a targeted deletion of α4 or β1 to induce colitis in immunodeficient mice. Her results indicated that loss of α4β7 lowered colitis severity. Further analysis of the colons showed that the mice had lower amounts of infiltrating CD4+ T cells, which matched results found in CD patients treated with Natalizumab. Interestingly, the migration problems were only apparent during inflammation, and didn’t affect T cell polarization.