Immune system cells called macrophages spring into action to surround and destroy threats such as viruses or cancer cells. But sometimes the would-be protective response leads to persistent inflammation, which, in turn, can cause disease.
Scientists don't know exactly how macrophages cross the line from being good cops to bad cops, but researchers at the University of Florida recently unearthed several clues about the mechanisms involved. Through the lens of two inflammation-related diseases, HIV and rheumatoid arthritis, they identified changes in specific proteins linked to the action of macrophages, white blood cells that are key to the body's natural defenses.
The findings could lead to new early diagnosis tools and targeted therapy for diseases that stem from abnormal or uncontrolled macrophage activation, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.
"Macrophage activation is important because it is involved in inflammation, which is involved in a number of diseases," said molecular biologist Maureen Goodenow, Ph.D., the Stephany W. Holloway university chair in AIDS research and professor of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine in the UF College of Medicine, who led the research. "Chronically inflamed macrophages can be a problem for human health."
The findings, published in April and June in the journals AIDS and Cellular Immunology, built on studies also published in April by the group in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
With the advent of powerful antiretroviral therapies, people infected with HIV now survive for decades without progressing to AIDS. Even so, they battle inflammatory conditions such as HIV-associated dementia and cardiovascular disease.
One cause of macrophage activation that researchers are exploring is microbial translocation the spilling of parts of intestinal microbes into the blood circulation. Researchers have proposed that bacterial pro
|Contact: Czerne M. Reid|
University of Florida