Enlisted to help fight viral infections, immune cells called macrophages consume virus-infected cells to stop the spread of the disease in the body. Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have uncovered how macrophages keep from succumbing to the infection themselves. Boosting this mechanism may be a way to speed recovery from respiratory infections.
The researchers found that a specific protein produced in the course of respiratory viral infections can serve to protect macrophages from an untimely death. Their report will appear in an upcoming issue of Nature Medicine and is available on October 9 at the journals website.
"If the macrophages were to die, the infection would spread further," says senior author Michael J. Holtzman, M.D., the Selma and Herman Seldin Professor of Medicine and director of pulmonary and critical care medicine. "So the macrophages use a protein called CCL5 to ensure that the infection process can be stopped before it goes any further."
Gwen Ericson | EurekAlert!
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