Researchers at U. Va. discover how body regulates most abundant type of white blood cell

ow transplant. The research could also be useful in treating inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, where neutrophil production may be part of the problem. "Currently, neutropenia is treated with a drug called GCSF," Ley explained. "But it may be more beneficial in the long-run to develop drugs targeting the IL-17 cytokine."

Ley and Stark call the process they've discovered the neutrophil turnstile.

"We found negative feedback," Stark explained. "Neutrophils watch and wait for bacteria. When they find bacterial production in the gut, the body will make a cytokine that drives neutrophil production."

But when neutrophils die, Stark and Ley explained, they get absorbed up by other cells called macrophages and dendritic cells, downregulating their production of IL-23. That way the body can actually 'sense' how many neutrophils have gotten to where they need to go in the body. Stark and Ley theorize that this 'turnstile' is likely located in the mesenteric lymph node in the middle of the gut, and possibly the lungs and skin.

Co-authors on the Immunity paper with Ley and Stark are Yuqing Huo, Tracy L. Burcin, Margaret A. Morris and Timothy S. Olson. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. The researchers also received invaluable assistance from U.Va.'s Flow Cytometry Core Facility.


Contact: Bob Beard
University of Virginia Health System

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