A previously unknown method of terminating immune responses is reported in a study to be published in the November 2006 issue of Nature Immunology.
Immune responses defend against invading pathogens and eliminate dangerous tumor cells, for example, but once the threat has been destroyed, the immune responses must come to an end. If left uncontrolled, immune activity can cause autoimmune conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues of the body.
The immune system uses many strategies to shut down immune responses, one of which is signaling cells to die. Charles Serhan and colleagues demonstrate that in mice and humans, dying immune cells express a surface protein that allows them to act as 'sponges' to effectively 'soak up' and thus remove factors that would otherwise promote inflammation. These findings highlight a previously unappreciated role of dying immune cells, and identify a new method for controlling or terminating potentially harmful immune responses.
The new findings potentially offer a strategy for dampening chronic inflammatory conditions by tricking the immune response to cease and desist.
Charles Serhan (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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