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Old 1st December 2015, 02:26   #5
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Melbourne researchers prove appendix crucial to digestive health

The often-removed organ once thought to be redundant — can be crucial to digestive health.

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have shown how a group of immune cells team up with the appendix to protect the gut during infection.
They work together during bouts of food poisoning and other bacterial illnesses, and also help boost the immune systems of cancer patients.

Lead researcher Professor Gabrielle Belz, a laboratory head from WEHI’s molecular immunology division, said about 70,000 Australians have their appendix removed every year — making it one of the most common surgical procedures.

“Popular belief tells us the appendix is a liability,” Prof Belz said.
“However, we may wish to rethink whether the appendix is irrelevant for our health.”
Prof Belz said surgeons no longer removed the appendix “at the first drop of a hat”, reserving surgery for more serious cases of appendicitis.

The new research, led by Prof Belz and leading French immunologist Prof Eric Vivier, has shown that innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) shield the appendix from harmful bacteria.

This allows the small organ to act as a safe haven for “good” bacteria, which could then “reseed” the intestines and restore the health of the digestive system. Prof Belz, whose research was published today in Nature Immunology journal, said ILCs offered an added layer of immune protection for healthy people. But they were vital in fighting bacterial infections in people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, Prof Belz said.

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