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TV crime drama compound highlights immune cells' misdeeds
Date:3/22/2009

St. Louis, March 20, 2009 Detectives on television shows often spray crime scenes with a compound called luminol to make blood glow. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have applied the same compound to much smaller crime scenes: sites where the immune system attacks the body's own tissues.

The authors report in Nature Medicine that injected luminol glows blue at sites of active immune inflammation in living mice, and that they can detect this glow from outside the mice with scientific cameras.

Immune inflammation is thought to be a critical component of arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis, some forms of cancer and neurodegenerative disease. Imaging such inflammation non-invasively should help scientists better understand and control it, according to the researchers.

"It's quite striking how specific and sensitive this approach is," says senior author David Piwnica-Worms, M.D., Ph.D. "For example, we have evidence that this technique can highlight inflamed tissue that is on the way to becoming cancerous but not yet discernible via visual or tactile inspection."

Piwnica-Worms, professor of radiology and of developmental biology, notes that cardiologists now believe immune inflammation is a key component that makes an arterial plaque dangerous. Such inflammation causes platelets to bind to plaques, leading the plaques to rupture or break away and putting the patient at risk of heart attack, stroke or lung clots.

For now, blood vessels of the chest and torso are too deep within the body to image with this approach. But vessels of the leg and neck are close enough to the skin that the technique may be "directly translatable" to use in human patients, according to Piwnica-Worms.

Lead author Shimon Gross, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow, proposed that luminol might be used to image inflammation when he found earlier studies linking luminol bioluminescence wit
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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