Pneumonia discovery may offer way to boost body's defenses

Pneumonia discovery may offer way to boost body's defenses
Lung tissue was infected with pneumonia bacteria. Credit: Alexandra Bettina, School of Medicine UVA

A molecule to be targeted in cancer is also critical to the immune system’s ability to combat pneumonia, researchers from the University’s School Virginia Medical been determined. The finding may offer a new way for physicians to increase the patient’s ability to fight life-threatening infection as bacteria become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

“We are interested to see if there are things that one do to strengthen the natural host defenses to help fight infection more effectively” Borna said Mehrad, MBBS, Division of pulmonary and critical Care Medicine UVA. “Potentially, this would be the sort of thing that could also antibiotics do to help patients with serious infections.”

mysterious role

Mehrad and his team determined that the lack of the cytokine M-CSF (abbreviation for colony stimulating factor macrophage) in mice infected worsened the result of Bacterial pneumonia : not have the protein resulted in 10 times more bacteria in the lungs, 1,000 times more bacteria in the blood and the spread of infection in the liver, resulting in increased deaths.

Clearly, the M-CSF plays an important role in the fight against pneumonia, but what does? “M-CSF has previously been shown to help make a type of immune cell, called monocytes, so my idea was that if you take away infected hosts simply stop producing monocytes and that is why they get sick” , Mehrad said, “and it turned out that was completely wrong.”

Pneumonia discovery may offer way to boost body's defenses
pneumonia bacteria is growing on a plate. Credit: Alexandra Bettina, School of Medicine UVA

Instead, the researchers determined, monocytes M-CSF helped survive once they have arrived in the infected tissues. Mehrad attributed a doctoral student in his laboratory, Bettina Alexandra, with the completion of key observations that completely changed the course of the investigation. “As expected, when we blocked the action of M-CSF … we saw fewer monocytes in the lung. And I thought, well, there you have it,” Mehrad said. “But what he did was Alexandra look at the number of cells in the bone marrow , when made, and blood, which is how they reach the lungs. And found that, in absence of M-CSF, the number of monocytes in the bone marrow and blood was completely unaffected … but dropped sharply in the lung. “

This meant that the original hypothesis was wrong. The cells are being made despite the lack of the cytokine; They were simply not survive in the lungs to do their work. “To use an analogy, are like soldiers mobilization” Mehrad said. “They are being made in the right number, that are coming in the right number, but when they get there, are not very good soldiers.”

Pneumonia discovery may offer way to boost body's defenses
Borna Mehrad, MBBS, of the University Medical School of Virginia, (left) and Alexandra Bettina have found a potential way to increase the body’s defenses to bacterial pneumonia. Credit: Josh Barney, UVA Health System

But knowing more about M-CSF, doctors may one day be able to make very good soldiers indeed. “If you take away M-CSF, infections get worse, so it raises two important questions about therapy 😕 The best may be that during infection, the body is producing the right amount of M-CSF and if additional added, will not improve results even more, “he said. “The second possibility is that there is room for improvement. In the struggle between monocytes and bacteria, M-CSF can do monocytes live longer and give them an advantage In addition, some people with weakened immunity could not produce enough of M-CSF. If that is the case, could increase this and improve their ability to fight infection. ”

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