SAN DIEGO (July 1, 2012) Like detectives seeking footprints and other clues on a television "whodunit," science can also benefit from analyzing the tracks of important players in the body's molecular landscape. Klaus Ley, M.D., a scientist at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, has done just that and illuminated a key step in the journey of inflammation-producing immune cells. The finding provides powerful, previously unknown information about critical biological mechanisms underlying heart disease and many other disorders.
The study, published today in Nature, focuses on one of the body's most abundant and important immune cells, known as neutrophils, which play a pivotal role in many diseases. "Neutrophils are the body's first line of defense and the main cell protecting us from bacterial infections," said Dr. Ley, a pioneer in vascular immunology and head of the La Jolla Institute's Division of Inflammation Biology. "While their protective function is very positive, neutrophils also have inflammation-producing properties that cause problems in heart disease and a host of autoimmune diseases, for example lupus. This makes understanding how to manipulate these cells extremely important in disrupting disease."
National Medal of Science winner Shu Chien, M.D., Ph.D., a UC San Diego professor renowned for his work on vascular mechanisms and atherosclerosis, praised Dr. Ley's finding as a significant advance in understanding inflammatory mechanisms in disease. "They have elucidated the molecular and mechanical bases of this type of neutrophil rolling (in the blood vessels) that have major significance in inflammation," said Dr. Chien, director of UCSD's Institute of Engineering in Medicine. "Since inflammation is at the root of a large variety of diseases, these findings not only have fundamental importance in the mechanobiology of the cell, but also in understanding the pathophysiology of many disease states."<
|Contact: Bonnie Ward|
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology