Video: Galectins defend against wolves in sheeps' clothing

January 15, 2016 by Quinn Eastman

To prevent auto-immune attack, our bodies avoid making antibodies against molecules found on our own cells. That leaves gaps in our immune defenses bacteria could exploit. Some of those gaps are filled by galectins, a family of proteins whose anti-bacterial properties were identified by Emory scientists.

In the accompanying video, Sean Stowell, MD, PhD and colleagues explain how galectins can be compared to sheep dogs, which are vigilant in protecting our cells (sheep) against that may try to disguise themselves (wolves).

The video was produced to showcase the breadth of research being conducted within Emory's Antibiotic Resistance Center. Because of their ability to selectively target some kinds of bacteria, galectins could potentially be used as antibiotics to treat infections without wiping out all the bacteria in the body.

The video will load shortly
Credit: Animated wolf/sheep segment produced by Mary O’Reilly. Video produced by Damon Meharg, narration by Peta Westmaas

Stowell first discovered galectins' properties while he was a graduate student with Richard Cummings, PhD, former chair of the Department of Biochemistry. They found that some galectins can recognize bacteria that express the human blood group B antigen, a carbohydrate structure found on type B and AB .

Working with postdoctoral fellow Connie Arthur, PhD, and colleagues, Stowell expanded on those findings to show that galectins can recognize and kill several types of bacteria. Those bacteria also display that match those found on our own cells. Galectins are thus an example of how the body deals with the problem of "."

Explore further: Galectins direct immunity against bacteria that employ camouflage

Related Stories

Bacteria-killing proteins cover blood type blind spot

February 14, 2010

A set of proteins found in our intestines can recognize and kill bacteria that have human blood type molecules on their surfaces, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have discovered.

A factor involved in painful joint wear and tear discovered

December 5, 2012

Inflammatory joint disease (arthritis) is affecting more and more, and especially older, people. In a recent survey by Statistik Austria, 39 per cent of people over the age of 60 stated that they have a form of arthritis. ...

Recommended for you

Protein disrupts infectious biofilms

December 8, 2016

Many infectious pathogens are difficult to treat because they develop into biofilms, layers of metabolically active but slowly growing bacteria embedded in a protective layer of slime, which are inherently more resistant ...

The song of silence

December 8, 2016

Like humans learning to speak, juvenile birds learn to sing by mimicking vocalizations of adults of the same species during development. Juvenile birds preferentially learn the song of their own species, even in noisy environments ...

An anti-CRISPR for gene editing

December 8, 2016

Researchers have discovered a way to program cells to inhibit CRISPR-Cas9 activity. "Anti-CRISPR" proteins had previously been isolated from viruses that infect bacteria, but now University of Toronto and University of Massachusetts ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.