A novel study from the Sahlgrenska Academy has discovered a special protein in the lining of the stomach which seems be an important part of the body’s defence against the stomach ulcer bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This discovery may possibly elucidate why the bacterium makes some people more ill as compared to others.

There may possibly be several different strains of the helical rod bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Also, the bacterium seems to have numerous different structures on its surface which it uses to attach to other structures. For instance, in a similar fashion like a space shuttle harbors onto a space station. Apparently, these structures appear different on different strains of the bacterium.

“Half of all people carry Helicobacter pylori in their bodies. Many don’t even notice that they have the bacterium, but some develop stomach ulcers, and in some cases the inflammation leads to stomach cancer. Our discovery may partially explain why the bacterium affects people so differently,” says Sara Linden from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, one of the authors behind the study.

Linden further continued saying that, “You could say that MUC1 acts as a decoy which prevents the bacterium from coming into close contact with the cell surface. Genetic variations between people mean that our MUC1 molecules vary in length, and this may be part of the reason why Helicobacter pylori makes some people more ill than others.”

A protein called as MUC1, found inside the lining of the stomach seems to be crucial for the body’s defence against the bacterium. When it is significantly magnified, MUC1 appears like a tree growing out of low bushes on the surface of the stomach. Since MUC1 is taller in contrast to the other structures on the cell surface, Helicobacter pylori willingly seems to get attached to the protein. Moreover, it then seldom gets to infect the cell.

This study was believed to have been conducted in collaboration with experts from universities in Brisbane and Melbourne. Currently, the study authors are believed to be developing novel ways of treating diseases which affect the mucus membranes.

The findings of the study have been published in the scientific journal Public Library of Science Pathogens.