FUNGICIDE MAY CAUSE IMMUNE DAMAGE
Natural killer cells are the first line of defense to the immune system; they have the capability to defend against a lot of different threats.
But researchers at Tennessee State University have uncovered a potential counter-threat to this front-line protection. "The body's natural killer cells could be rendered irreversibly powerless to guard against invading tumors and viral onslaughts after only a brief exposure to a compound found in some agricultural pesticides and fungicides," says chemistry professor Margaret Whalen.
The findings, presented at the 223rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, suggest an apparent irreversible inhibition of natural killer cell function after as little as a one-hour exposure to Triphenyltin, or TPT. The compound TPT is used in fungicides to protect pecan, potato and sugar beet crops and in pesticides to guard against Colorado potato beetles.
Whalen says her laboratory tests were the first to examine TPT specifically in human natural killer cells. She thinks that most of the TPT levels that agricultural workers are exposed to in the field are probably below what her group tested in the lab. "It's hard to know what real-life levels for phenyltins are," she says.
Penn State researchers
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