Genetic Mapping Of Pig Whipworm May Lead To New Treatments For Autoimmune Disease
June 20, 2014

Genetic Mapping Of Pig Whipworm May Lead To New Treatments For Autoimmune Disease

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

According to an international team of researchers, a parasitic worm found in pigs could modify the human immune system to aid in the treatment of autoimmune diseases including inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis. The team consisted of 11 institutions from six different countries that presented the whole-genome sequence of the worm and published the study online in Nature Genetics.

The human form of the whipworm infects nearly one billion people worldwide and causes trichuriasis, a disease causing nausea, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. The pig whipworm causes disease and loss of livestock, but does not affect humans.

Researchers sequenced the genomes of an adult female and an adult male pig whipworm, producing assemblies of 76 Mb and 81 Mb, respectively. Previous reports had XX for female and XY for male whipworm, but the new study found no evidence of the Y chromosome in the male. This led the researchers to believe that the sex chromosomes are similar in both sexes.

They found that microRNAs seem to regulate sexual development in the whipworms. According to the authors, this was the first time that such observations were done. By investigating how the pig whipworm hosts immune response, the secretory proteins were found to be high in cells of the pig whipworm. The enzymes secreted during larval development seem to have a role in human autoimmune disorders by producing inflammation. The researchers produced models of inflammatory bowel disease as well as other autoimmune disorders to figure a way to use parasite therapies.

“The constructed pig whipworm genome sequence provides us a genetic resource for deeply investigating the mechanisms underlying human autoimmune diseases. Meanwhile, the pig whipworm-host interactions will shed new light on the control of helminth and other immunopathological diseases in human,” Li Hu, project manager from BGI Shenzhen, said in a statement.