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Scientists Explore How Neutrophils Aid Wound Healing

Scientists Explore How Neutrophils Aid Wound Healing

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Immune cells known as neutrophils aid in wound healing.

Researchers now have a better understanding of how these immune cells move throughout the body.

When it comes to dealing with wounds, your body has quite the amazing lineup of defense mechanisms. However, one especially noteworthy member of this frontline are neutrophils. This specialized immune cell travels into a wound site and releases enzymes to fight off infectious microorganisms, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

But when they’re not busy saving the day and improving wound healing function, these cells just float aimlessly through the bloodstream. So, what causes these cells to transform into infection fighting machines? To solve the puzzle, a group of researchers from the National Institutes of Health, Shanghai’s Fudan University and the University of Illinois at Chicago joined forces to explore what really makes these neutrophils tick.

The mighty neutrophils

After exhaustive research, the joint team – who published their results in a recent edition of the journal Developmental Cell – found the secret to the neutrophils’ transformative capabilities: a specific receptor molecule. Namely, this is a molecule that is responsible for interacting with reactive oxygen species. Often referred to as just ROS, this unique chemical species contains oxygen and generally damage the structures of various molecules, according to Kimball’s Biology Pages.

Within the neutrophils there is a receptor called TRPM2, which acts as a kind of ROS sensor or guide. Whenever a neutrophil comes across some bacteria or other foreign body, it lets out a burst of ROS to destroy the invader. Then, thanks to the functions of TRPM2, the neutrophils enter a docile state until the next “attack” by outside particles.

In an accompanying press release, lead author Jingsong Xu explained just how dependent neutrophils are on these chemical reactions for basic movement.

“The neutrophil senses a dramatic increase in reactive oxygen species as it gets closer to the wound site, and this triggers the shutdown of the migration of the cell,” he said. “Once the neutrophil ceases moving, it just kills one bacteria or pathogen after another — and can concentrate on doing its job of cleaning up the site.”

Xu added that another key part of this process is chemical oxidization. Without it, the neutrophils would be on full alert at all times. Luckily, the TRPM2 is oxidized whenever the ROS is released.

As beneficial as this process is, Xu added that too many active neutrophils can damage tissue structures. That echoes a study released in mid-2015, in which the impediment of neutrophils improved wound healing in diabetic mice. All of this insight into neutrophils is vital, and helps scientists better understand the complexity of effective wound care.
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