As any weekend warrior knows, an errant elbow or a missed ball can put a crimp in an afternoon of fun. The bruising and swelling are painfully obvious, but the processes occurring under the skin remain full of mystery.
What is known is that leukocytes, or white blood cells, mobilize to protect injured body tissue from infection. What is not understood is why some leukocytes but not othersare attracted to damaged tissue.
The response begins when leukocytes travel through blood vessels near the site of the injury and stop. Eight out of ten white blood cells will eventually continue traveling through the blood vessel, while the other two cells will actually enter the tissue to begin fighting against infection. Thanks to a $9.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, a research team led by Richard Waugh, chairman of the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Rochester, is trying to find the reasons.
As Waugh points out, it's not necessarily bad for leukocytes to pass by the site of an injury. Inflammation occurs when there's injury to the tissue, combined with an influx of white blood cells to fight off potential infection. But the presence of too many white blood cells can damage the very tissue they're designed to protect. Chronic inflammation is responsible for many health problems, including arthritis, heart disease, and stroke. While most research into leukocytes has been from a biochemical point of view, Waugh and his team bring a different perspectiveone that accounts for the role of mechanics and fluid dynamics in the process. Waugh expects a better understanding of leukocyte behavior will result in pharmaceutical treatments that modulate the response of white blood cells.
The project team includes: Minsoo Kim and Ingrid Sarelius of the University of Rochester; Michael King and Moonsoo Jin of Cornell University; Daniel Hammer of the University of Pennsylvania; and Micah Dembo of Boston Uni
|Contact: Peter Iglinski|
University of Rochester