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Molecular DJ - Lactoferrin

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Published on Nov 17, 2012

Our immune system protects us from harmful invaders, such as food-borne bugs (such as Campylobacter and Salmonella). We have the ability to make antibodies to a vast array of harmful substances, and there are cells in our blood that engulf and kill invaders. But, our bodies don't stop there when it comes to fighting off invaders. The largest place in our bodies where the outside world is encountered is our guts. The villi structures of our intestines increase the surface area of our guts to around 200 square meters (about the size of the singles area of a tennis court). This is around 100 times the surface area of the outside of the bodies!

In addition to secreting antibodies, the linings of our gut also secrete an arsenal of other
protective substances, such as antimicrobial peptides and proteins. One such example is an iron-binding protein called Lactoferrin. It's antimicrobial activity works by tightly binding iron, which would otherwise be required by invading pathogens. Additionally, lactoferrin can bind to the cell surfaces of bacteria, where iron chemistry oxidizes the bacteria causing the cells the break apart. However, some bacteria cleverly exploit the iron-binding properties of Lactoferrin, and can use the iron from lactoferrin; Campylobacter being one example. This demonstrates the constant 'arms race' that occurs between our mmune system and invading pathogens. Lactoferrin is also found in milk (hence the name 'Lacto'), saliva, and tears.

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