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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Immunology Faculty Member of the Department of Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Kate Jeffrey, joins the show to discuss her work in the field of virology and immunology.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How the gut virome of healthy individuals differs from the gut virome of individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • What the difference is between a symbiont and pathobiont, and how the former can become damaging
  • What genes are triggered by viruses coming from healthy versus unhealthy individuals
  • What complex immune disease are on the rise, and how they are a combination of environmental triggers and genetic susceptibility

Microorganisms: trillions of them live in or on us, many of which we need just as much as they need us. But how exactly do they shape and educate our immune systems? And how might the answer differ if we were asking about viruses instead of microbes?

These are just a couple of the questions that Dr. Jeffrey explores in her work, along with a close look at the influence of epigenetics on the function of our immune cells.

In her lab, a brand-new field of study is under the spotlight: the virome. Dr. Jeffrey says that of the trillions of viruses on earth, we can only identify about 6,000. Although we certainly don’t know the extent to which it occurs, we do know that there is evidence that viruses have an impact on the function of immune cells.

Dr. Jeffrey explains the process of studying this, which involves extracting viruses from resected sections of inflamed colons from patients with IBD, and testing those viruses in the lab to see how they interact with immune cells such as macrophages, which act as the first line of defense in the immune system.

Through this research, they have found that viruses from a healthy gut essentially lead macrophages to be in an anti-inflammatory state, which means all the genes that define a macrophage as being anti-inflammatory are triggered by a virus coming from a healthy gut. To the contrary, viruses from an IBD individual trigger all of the classic inflammatory genes.

Dr. Jeffrey expounds on a number of other fascinating topics, so tune in and check out to learn more.

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