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uni'wissen 02-2012 ENG

Enjoy your meal: Young mice need to ingest sufficient glucosinolates to strengthen the immune defense in the intestines – for instance by eating broccoli. Photos: Ben, CUKMEN, Pakhnyushchyy (all Fotolia) Caring mouse mothers would do well to feed their offspring broccoli rather than cheese. Although the milk product might have an attrac- tive scent and taste delicious, in contrast to plants from the cabbage family it does not con- tain any glucosinolates. Mice need these plant chemicals in order for certain immune cells in their intestines to develop into lymphocyte clus- ters, where they guard against infections and chronic inflammatory diseases. Young mice de- prived of broccoli risk contracting such diseases. That is the result of research conducted by Prof. Dr. Andreas Diefenbach and his doctoral candi- date Elina Kiss. The two scientists have both re- ceived prestigious awards for their findings. Scientists who conduct experiments on mice typically have more lofty goals. “I think that these plant components are also biologically active in humans,” says Diefenbach, who conducts his re- Freiburg Researchers Have Discovered that the Immune System Only Develops Correctly with the Help of Certain Substances from Cabbages Broccoli Strengthens the Immune by Jürgen Schickinger search at the Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene of the Freiburg University Medical Center and the Cluster of Excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies of the University of Freiburg. Glucosinolates are be- lieved to be most important during childhood. In baby mice they have the strongest effect from around the tenth day to the eighth week of life. “However, glucosinolates are also contained in mother’s milk,” explains Diefenback. Human and mouse mothers should thus not scorn broccoli, at least while they are nursing their offspring. Those who aren’t fond of broccoli can also eat Brussels sprouts or any of several other vegeta- bles in the cabbage family that contain large amounts of glucosinolates. For the project Nu- trImmune, Diefenbach has been awarded a Starting Grant worth 1.5 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC). “It wasn’t even our intention to investigate the influence of 2424