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BGU Study Finds Corals Are Able to Fight Infection

BGU Study Finds Corals Are Able to Fight Infection

August 23, 2021 - Summarized from Science Daily

Desert & Water Research, Natural Sciences, Research News

Science Daily — A new study led by scientists at BGU and the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has identified specialized immune cells in the cauliflower coral and starlet sea anemone that can help fight infection. The findings are important to better understand how reef-building corals and other reef animals protect themselves from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses found in and around coral reefs.

Coral outcrop on Flynn Reef

The researchers found that immune cells make up about three percent of the total cell population and that they have at least two populations of immune cells that perform functions unique from digestion.

“These findings are important because they show that corals have the cellular capabilities to fight infection and that they have unique cell types that were previously not known,” said Nikki Traylor-Knowles, an assistant professor of marine biology and ecology at the UM Rosenstiel School and co-senior author of the study.

To uncover these specialized immune cells, the researchers exposed foreign particles such as bacteria, fungal antigens, and beads into a cauliflower coral (Pocillopora damicornis) and starlet sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis) in the laboratory. They then used a process, called fluorescence-activated cell sorting, to isolate different cell populations.

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