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Taste for danger

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Science  29 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6434, pp. 1378-1380
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6434.1378

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Summary

Decades after tuft cells were discovered, researchers are finally discovering what these widespread and mysterious cells do. Tuft cells serve as sentinels in many parts of the body, including the lungs, nasal passages, urethra, and intestines. Recent studies show tuft cells in the intestines detect parasites and help orchestrate responses to eject the invaders. Tuft cells in the nasal passages spur neighboring cells to release bacteria-killing compounds. The cells may also promote tissue healing, control maturation of immune cells in the thymus, and prevent development of aggressive tumors in the pancreas. However, they may also promote cancer in the stomach and intestines.