Viral Predators as Nutritional Enhancements for Mammalian Development

by Amir Hussein
bacteriophage therapy

Recent research indicates that cells in mammals might utilize bacteriophages, viruses that prey on bacteria, to aid in cellular development and survival, providing fresh perspectives for applications in phage therapy and human health studies. Interaction of bacteriophage particles with mammalian cells. Attribution: T2Q and Barr Lab (CC-BY 4.0)

Known as phages, these bacterial predators are viruses that invade and eradicate bacteria. When considered from a macromolecular perspective, phages are essentially nutrient-rich nucleotide clusters encased in a proteinaceous exterior.

A study detailed in PLOS Biology by Jeremy J. Barr and his team at Monash University in Victoria, Australia, posits that mammalian cells might engulf phages to harness them for resources, which could support cellular development and enhance survival.

Exploration of Phage and Mammalian Cell Dynamics

While phage interactions with bacteria are recognized, the manner in which these interactions affect mammalian cells, particularly concerning symbiotic relationships, remains to be fully elucidated.

Research focusing on human tissue culture cells exposed to phages indicates potential for improved growth and proliferation. Attribution: Barr Lab (CC-BY 4.0)

The team set out to understand the immune response of mammalian cells to phages by exposing them to the T4 phage in vitro. The cell reactions were monitored using luciferase reporter and antibody microarray assays, with a phage-absent supernatant providing a control for comparison.

Outcomes and Future Directions

The findings showed that the T4 phage did not provoke DNA-based inflammatory reactions. Instead, it initiated a cascade of signaling events conducive to cellular growth and sustenance. Further research is required to establish the underlying reasons for cells utilizing phage particles and to determine if there is an evolutionary advantage to this process.

The researchers state that these initial findings shed light on the potential effects of phages on mammalian systems, with wider implications for immunology, phage therapy, microbiomes, and human health.

Barr comments on the significance of understanding the additional benefits bacteriophages may hold for mammalian hosts, especially in the context of phage therapy’s rising role in combatting antibiotic-resistant infections.

Citation: “Mammalian cells internalize bacteriophages and use them as a resource to enhance cellular growth and survival” by Marion C. Bichet, Jack Adderley, Laura Avellaneda-Franco, Isabelle Magnin-Bougma, Natasha Torriero-Smith, Linden J. Gearing, Celine Deffrasnes, Cassandra David, Genevieve Pepin, Michael P. Gantier, Ruby CY Lin, Ruzeen Patwa, Gregory W. Moseley, Christian Doerig, and Jeremy J. Barr, 26 October 2023, PLOS Biology.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3002341

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about bacteriophage therapy

What does the new study on bacteriophages suggest?

The study suggests that mammalian cells may utilize bacteriophages as a resource to promote cellular growth and survival, offering new insights into phage therapy and human health.

How do bacteriophages interact with mammalian cells?

Bacteriophages, when introduced to mammalian cells in vitro, were found to trigger signaling pathways that facilitate cellular growth and survival without activating DNA-mediated inflammatory pathways.

What are the broader implications of this study on bacteriophages?

The findings suggest potential broader implications for immunology, the effectiveness of phage therapy, the understanding of microbiomes, and overall human health.

What is the significance of the research on phage and mammalian cell interactions?

Understanding how mammalian cells interact with phages can provide new perspectives on cellular growth mechanisms and pave the way for novel treatments against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

Will there be further research following these findings on bacteriophages?

Yes, further studies are needed to determine the precise reasons mammalian cells utilize phage particles and whether this is a result of evolutionary adaptation for mutual benefit.

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Jenny B November 5, 2023 - 6:11 pm

So, the phage doesn’t set off inflammation that’s good news I guess but what happens long term when these phages are hanging out in mammal cells

Sandra T November 5, 2023 - 11:25 pm

its kinda mind-blowing how we keep finding out new things about these tiny critters, mother nature sure is full of surprises

Chris F November 6, 2023 - 12:44 am

gotta give it to the Barr Lab, making strides in science we’ll be seeing phages in a whole new light now

Alex D November 6, 2023 - 2:43 am

im not a scientist or anything but this seems like a big deal for phage therapy right could this be the breakthrough we been waiting for in fighting superbugs?

Mike R. November 6, 2023 - 6:17 am

interesting stuff but didn’t we always think phages were just for attacking bacteria now they’re like some sort of vitamin for cells?


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