Dental researcher Dr. Pushpa Pandiyan (photo) and colleagues have discovered a new way to model how infection-fighting T-cells cause inflammation in mice. The hope is that the discovery will lead to new therapies and/or drugs that jump-start weakened or poorly functioning immune systems, said Dr. Pandiyan, an Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Pandiyan believes the process could lead to identifying and testing new drugs to replace anti-fungal medicines that have become ineffective as the fungi develop a resistance to them. Dr. Pandiyan's findings are explained and demonstrated in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) article "Th17 Inflammation Model of Oropharyngeal Candidiasis in Immunodeficient Mice," published online on February 18, 2015. The research advances Dr. Pandiyan's previous work on isolating different types of oral T-cells for study. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that is critical to the body's immune system. In the newest research, she used T-cells and injected them into mice genetically engineered to have no immunity in order to test how the cells function when fighting a common thrush-like yeast infection found in the mouth, called Candida albicans. When the infection-fighting cells are not controlled properly, they caused inflammation. According to Dr. Pandiyan, approximately 60 percent of the population has the fungus, but a healthy immune system keeps it under control. In humans with weak immune systems, the fungal growth appears as a white coating on the tongue. Individuals with the infection report a painful burning sensation in the mouth. As the infection spreads, it causes inflammation of the mouth area, tongue, and gums. Left untreated, it can spread to the throat and the esophagus.
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