Video transcript: Green vegetables directly influence immune defences and help maintain intestinal health

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November 2011

Dr Marc Veldhoen, Babraham Institute
The paper is about a very specific substance of white blood cells called leukocytes that you can only find at intra-epithelial lymphocytes that is the skin and your intestine for example and the main message of the paper is that these cells, the ones in the intestine that is, need a very specific compound to survive and these component you can find in green vegetables and so the central message of the paper that eating your green vegetables is very important for your intestine immune system.

Video shows microscopic view of intestine

There are several types of immune cells in the intestine and there are several layers of them. The first layers are called intraepithelial lymphocytes and that what destroys the gut. The exact function is not really known but they are important in maintaining the intra-epithelial they have an interaction with the intra-epithelial cells and make them grow, that is, the little structures in your intestines, they constantly turn over because when you digest food they get damaged and these cells are important in replenishing new cells. Secondly they are immune cells after all, and they keep some unwanted bacteria at bay so they don't invade your tissues and cause inflammation.

All the experiments were performed on mice and what we did was feeding mice their standard diet and looked at the amount of intra-epithelial lymphocytes they harbour in the intestine then we gave the same very healthy mice a different diet that doesn't contain any vegetable components and to our surprise all the intra-epithelial lymphocytes or almost all disappeared.

Video shows microscopic cells

This immune chemistry pictures of part of the intestine and the stain is for immune cells which are shown in red and we show the epithelial barrier which is shown in green and we see the wall type from the control mouse and the cells that are there and the cells are very closely interacting with the intra-epithelial lymphocytes cells and the next imagine we showed in the absence of vegetables, or in the absence of the hydro carbon cell. All of these cells have not only disappeared from the epithelial barrier but they are not visible at all.

The intra-epithelial lymphocytes we studied are very particular sub-set of cells they are made in the embryo already so the theory maybe their development was affected which turns out not to be case or their migrations they move from a central organ to the intestine we actually find the cells are migrating properly and they arrive in the organ but they then disappear so it turns out that the green vegetable component is necessary for the survival of these cells without them they die.

Video shows a graphical representation of the gut

This is our model this is a graphical representation of the gut the finger like structure you see on the left in the gut you have intra-epithelial lymphocytes highlighted here in blue and these are the cells which express the aryl hydrocarbon receptor.

This receptor gets stimulated by the compound found in green vegetables and as a consequence these cells perform their function they provide growth factors for the epithelial cells to turnover and they do the immune surveyance and as a consequence of that you have few but sufficient amount of bacteria here surrounding the intestine.

The absence of green vegetables the intra-epithelial lymphocytes arrive in the guts but they die as a consequence the finger like structures are healthy looking these is no epithelial surveyance so the build up of bacterial is much greater so you see all these little things around the ville structure and to keep those bacteria at bay we get other white blood cells called t-cells migrating into the ville and providing an inflammatory environment.

Well the intestine is full with bacteria with very good bacteria and less good bacteria and one of the things we see in ageing people is that the amount of risk of infection goes up. This intra-epithelial lymphocytes are very important in maintaining the balance between good bacteria and not go good bacteria so we think eating your 5 portions of green vegetables a day would really help maintaining a very healthy intestinal flora and that will be very beneficial for a long life.

Video shows stills of the Institutes mentioned below

The research was carried out at the National Institute for Medical Research with funding from the Medical Research Council all the Welsh work was performed there in addition the second part of the project was performed at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge which gets it funding from the BBSRC.

The research was carried out at the National Institute for Medical Research with funding from the Medical Research Council all the Welsh work was performed there in addition the second part of the project was performed at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge which gets its funding from the BBSRC.

The Babraham Institute, near Cambridge, in the UK undertakes innovating, world-leading, life-sciences research to generate new knowledge of the biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. The Institute is at the heart of the Babraham Research Campus, which is also home to around thirty early-stage bioscience companies, underscoring BBSRC's and Babraham's commitment to support innovation, knowledge exchange and wealth creation in the UK.