zincNow, a new research study in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that Zinc may be pointing the way to new therapeutic targets for fighting infections.

Specifically, scientists from Florida found that Zinc not only supports healthy immune function, but increases activation of the cells (T cells) responsible for destroying viruses and bacteria.

“Previous studies have shown that Zinc supplementation significantly reduces the duration and severity of childhood diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, and incidence of malaria in Zinc-deficient children,” noted the director of the Center for Nutritional Sciences within the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Florida.

Age-related declines in immune function have also been related to zinc deficiency in the elderly.

Scientists administered either a zinc supplement or a placebo to healthy volunteers to assess the effects of Zinc on T cell activation. After isolating the T cells from the blood, scientists then simulated infection in laboratory conditions. Results showed that T cells taken from the Zinc-supplemented group had higher activation than those from the placebo group. Specifically, cell activation stimulated the Zinc transporter in T cells (called ZIP8) which transports stored Zinc into the cell cytoplasm where it then alters the expression of a T cell protein in a way needed to fight infections.

Studies such as this help shed light on how Zinc may enhance the ability of our immune systems to fight off foreign invaders. This research also points toward new possible targets for entirely new drugs to help augment immune function and prevent or stop infections that might be resistant to traditional antibiotics.

Journal Reference:
Zinc transporter ZIP8 (SLC39A8) and zinc influence
IFN-expression in activated human T cells.
Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2009

Marilyn Clinton

Mary is a single parent and writer. She likes to share her family adventures, and tips for managing a busy family and a full-time job.

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