Understanding white blood cells' defense mechanisms could lead to better treatments

phys.org | 1/31/2019 | Staff
roxy2707 (Posted by) Level 3
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Experiencing a bacterial infection? You're generally prescribed antibiotics by your doctor. But how exactly do those antibiotics and your white blood cells work in tandem to improve your infection?

"The human body's first line of defense against bacteria are certain white blood cells called neutrophils," says J. Scott VanEpps, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine. "One of their weapons are neutrophil extracellular traps, also called NETs."

Traps - Networks - Fibers - DNA - Neutrophils

The traps are microscopic networks of fibers made primarily of DNA that are produced by the neutrophils to capture bacteria. But how exactly they work, VanEpps notes, is still unclear.

"The exact function and mechanism of NETs remains a bit of a mystery likely because they have different functions for different situations," he says. "And it's very hard to isolate these NETs in the laboratory and study them in detail."

VanEpps - Author - Study - Advanced - Materials

VanEpps is a co-senior author of a new study, published in Advanced Materials, that investigated if there was a way to successfully create NETs in the laboratory to better understand how NETs can capture bacteria.

"We were hoping to provide a bottom-up engineering approach to better understand how the immune system fights bacteria, specifically the immune system's weapon: NET," says VanEpps, associate director at the Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care.

VanEpps - Team - Finding - Recreation - NETs

VanEpps explains that he and the team found their first surprising finding during the recreation of the NETs.

"Although there are literally hundreds of different ingredients in natural NETs, we were able to recreate a lot of their structure and function with just two ingredients and determined the optimal ratio of those ingredients," he says. "They look and function very similar to NETs produced by those neutrophil white blood cells and the synthesis method is much simpler than isolating them from neutrophils."

Microwebs

After producing the microwebs, the...
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