Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute report they have uncovered that molecules in vegetables - such as broccoli or cauliflower - may help to maintain a healthy barrier in the lung and ease infection. Their findings in mice revolve around the protein aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), which is found at barrier sites.
Their study, Endothelial AHR activity prevents lung barrier disruption in viral infection, is published in Nature and led by Andreas Wack, PhD, group leader of the Immunoregulation Lab at the institute.
The researchers conducted a series of experiments in mice to show how AHR impacts lung barriers. When mice were infected with the flu virus, blood was found in the airspaces in the lungs, as it had leaked across the damaged barrier. The researchers then showed that AHR was able to prevent the barrier from becoming leaky: when AHR was overactivated they observed less blood in the lung spaces.
Jack Major, visiting scientist at the Crick and first author, said: “What we’ve identified is a gut-lung axis—linking diet to protection against lung infection via endothelial cells.’