Galectins defend against bacterial wolves in sheep's clothing

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.

Sean Stowell, MD, PhD and colleagues appear in a video which explains how galectins can be compared to sheep dogs, which are vigilant in protecting our cells (sheep) against bacteria that may try to disguise themselves (wolves). Dr. Stowell is a faculty member in the IMP program.

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 red blood cells.

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