Studies have shown that neutrophils perform much more functions in the body than previously thought. These are the most numerous cells in the innate immune system. It turned out that they can restore many organs if they get there.
Every day in the bone marrow is produced a huge number of neutrophil cells, which then enter the bloodstream and are distributed to almost all tissues of the body. Neutrophils live less than 24 hours, so scientists believed that these cells have very limited ability to change their functions depending on the environment. A new study by Spanish scientists refutes this hypothesis, showing that when the neutrophils leave the bloodstream and migrate to the tissues, they acquire previously unknown functions.
“Neutrophils acquire functions useful for certain tissues in each organ. This suggests that they are involved in a large number of processes in the body and are not limited to the fight against infection,” said the co-author of the study, Andres Hidalgo.
For example, getting into the lungs, neutrophils contribute to the formation of blood vessels, and being in the skin help maintain the integrity of the skin epithelium.
This ability of neutrophils to change their properties was found in healthy people, but scientists believe that the presence of disease in humans does not affect the plasticity of these cells. “If we can control the processes when cells acquire new properties, we can develop new treatments based on them,” – added the scientist Ivan Ballesteros.
Scientists have already identified changes in neutrophils in some diseases, including cancer, but these mechanisms are still poorly understood. In case of cancer, for example, it will be possible to use the properties of neutrophils against malignant cells and block the possibility of formation of new blood vessels in the tumor.