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White blood cell uses DNA 'catapult' to fight infection
Date:8/13/2008

SALT LAKE CITY U.S. and Swiss scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how a type of white blood cell called the eosinophil may help the body to fight bacterial infections in the digestive tract, according to research published online this week in Nature Medicine.

Hans-Uwe Simon, from the University of Bern, Switzerland, Gerald J.Gleich, M.D., from the University of Utah School of Medicine, and their colleagues discovered that bacteria can activate eosinophils to release mitochondrial DNA in a catapult-like fashion to create a net that captures and kills bacteria.

"This is a fascinating finding," says Gleich, professor of dermatology and internal medicine at the University of Utah and a co-author of the study. "The DNA is released out of the cell in less than a second."

Eosiniphils, which comprise only 1 to 3 percent of human white blood cells, are known to be useful in the body's defense mechanisms against parasites. But their exact role in the immune system is not clear. Unlike other white blood cells, which are distributed throughout the body, eosinophils are found only in selected areas, including the digestive tract. Mitochondria often referred to as the power plants of the cell are components within cells that are thought to descend from ancient bacteria. Although most cellular DNA is contained in the nucleus, mitochondria have their own DNA.

Previous research has shown that eosinophils secrete toxic granule proteins during parasite infections and that these granule proteins kill bacteria. Simon, Gleich, and their colleagues found that when eosinophils are stimulated by infection, such as E. coli, they rapidly secrete mitochondrial DNA. This DNA binds to the granule proteins and forms a net that is able to trap and kill bacteria. The researchers also found higher levels of eosinophils were linked to improved survival and lower numbers of bacteria in the blood of mice with widespread bacterial i
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Contact: Gerald J. Gleich, M.D.
801-581-6465
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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