In a surprise finding, scientists have discovered that histamine, the inflammatory compound released during allergic reactions that causes runny nose, watery eyes, and wheezing, can be produced in large amounts in the lung by neutrophils, the white blood cells that are the major component of pus.
Pus, a fluid found in infected tissue, is produced as a result of inflammation.
The study in mice is the first to show that lung neutrophils can produce histamine in significant quantities, according to principal investigator George Caughey, MD, chief of pulmonary/critical care medicine at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
"Previously it was thought that the primary sources of lung histamine, in health as well as disease, was mast cells, which are classically associated with allergy," notes Caughey, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Caughey says the result could mean that histamine acts as a link between airway infections and asthma and bronchitis, which are associated with allergy. "In both, we observe inflammation –– swelling, blood vessel leak, and muscle contraction that narrows the airway."
The study appears in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Caughey was investigating the well-known fact that upper respiratory infections often trigger acute asthma attacks. "We hypothesized that an infection in the airway would release histamine from mast cells, and that would be one of the reasons," he explains.
To test the hypothesis, Caughey and his team exposed two different populations of mice to mycoplasma, a common respiratory infection in rodents and humans. One population had a genetic abnormality that causes a total lack of mast cells; the other population was made up of normal, wild-type mice. Both populations of infected mice developed pneumonia.
"We thought the mice without mast cells would do better than the wild-type mice, because the infection wouldn't be provoking mast cells to release histamine," recalls Caughey. "In fact, they did much worse. Even though there were no mast cells, histamine levels rose up to 50 times normal."
The reason was straightforward, Caughey says. Neutrophil numbers increased in response to infection, and neutrophils in turn produced histamine. "It's a direct effect of the mycoplasma bacteria on neutrophils. They induce neutrophils to produce the enzyme that produces histamine."
Individual neutrophils produce much less histamine than individual mast cells, says Caughey, but "because pus contains millions if not billions of neutrophils, the overall amount they make is very considerable."
The neutrophil-histamine effect was similar in the wild-type mice, reports Caughey: "Histamine levels from neutrophils blew right past the histamine levels contributed by mast cells."
The wild-type mice suffered less severe infections overall because "as a number of recent studies, including ours, have shown, mast cells actually play a role in protecting against bacteria," Caughey explains. "For example, a mouse without mast cells with the equivalent of a ruptured appendix will die of the resulting infection, while a mouse with mast cells can survive."
When the infected mice without mast cells were given antihistamines, the level of histamine, and therefore the severity of the pneumonia, dropped in proportion to the amount of antihistamine given.
"This is a study in mice, so we cannot freely extrapolate the results to human beings," cautions Caughey. "Nonetheless, antihistamines may deserve more of a look as therapeutic options in lung and airway infection."
He says the study also has implications for other types of airway infection "in which there are a lot of white blood cells –– cystic fibrosis, for example, which can be associated with asthma-like airway contraction."
The next steps for Caughey and his research team are to investigate "how general this result might be. Does only one type of bacteria cause the effect, or do others, also? Is it limited to rodents, or does it carry forward to humans? And if it does, is the amount of histamine produced by neutrophils enough to make a clinical difference?"
The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow
25.07.2017 | Rudolf-Virchow-Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin der Universität Würzburg
Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
25.07.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences