A new finding from Mayo Clinic researchers and colleagues may suggest treatment options for severe viral infections and new avenues for research into tissue regeneration after injury. The paper, published in Immunity, examines the work of immune cells called macrophages that stay deep in the lungs. These cells are found in the part of the lungs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide, called the pulmonary alveolus. The alveolar macrophages are responsible for vacuuming up debris or destroy microorganisms, but they must also trigger the recovery of lung tissue.
“Macrophages are an important cell type in respiratory immune defense,” explains Mayo Clinic immunologist Jie Sun, Ph.D., senior author on the paper. “They have stem cell features of self-renewal, as well as inflammatory feature of initiating host defense. We found that these two features are uncoupled, thereby modulating host disease and tissue recovery following viral infection.”
Using human lung macrophages collected through collaboration with Mayo Clinic clinicians and from patients who agreed to participate in research, as well as mouse models, the researchers clarify the way macrophage cells cause inflammation and how they renew their population after infection.
“Using a viral pneumonia model, we found that macrophage inflammatory activity promoted acute host disease,” explains Dr. Sun. “In contrast, macrophage proliferation and self-renewal enabled repopulation of reparative macrophages and tissue recovery following viral clearance.”
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