How Gut Microbes Help Mend Damaged Muscles

Research shows gut microbes fuel production of immune cells that are called into action to heal muscle injury

image of a person grasping lower leg in pain

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The human immune system is incredibly versatile. Among its most skilled multitaskers are T cells, known for their role in everything from fighting infection to reining in inflammation to killing nascent tumors.

Now, in a surprising new discovery, Harvard Medical School researchers have found that a class of regulatory T cells (Tregs) made in the gut play a role in repairing injured muscles and mending damaged livers.

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In an even more unexpected twist, the researchers found that gut microbes fuel the production of Tregs, which act as immune healers that go on patrol around the body and respond to distress signals from distant sites of injury.

The results, based on experiments in mice and published Feb. 22 in the journal Immunity, add to a growing body of evidence showing how important the gut microbiota is in regulating various physiologic functions beyond the gut. Additionally, the findings show that gut immune cells may have a far broader repertoire in taming inflammation and healing damage that extends beyond the intestines.