Researchers Discover Virus-Fighting cells In Lungs Offering Protection against Flu

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Scientists at the University of California-Riverside have made a groundbreaking discovery about the body’s defense against the flu. They found that the fluid-filled sac around the lungs, once believed to protect from damage, contains potent virus-fighting cells, notably macrophages. These immune cells are adept at combating various pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

Scientists discover flu-fighting macrophages in lungs

Juliet Morrison, the lead author of the study and a virologist affiliated with UC Riverside, said that they were surprised by the discovery of the cells in the lungs, as such a phenomenon has not been previously observed. It is unprecedented that these cells migrate into the lung during an infection.

The discovery reveals that during influenza infections, macrophages migrate from the pleural cavity to the lungs, leading to a notable reduction in inflammation and disease levels. This finding underscores the importance of considering extrapulmonary factors in lung health. The research began by analyzing genetic data from flu-infected mice, using an algorithm to predict changes in lung cell types.

Researchers conducted experiments using laser-based techniques to monitor macrophage movement in the lungs, finding that their absence resulted in heightened disease and lung inflammation in mice. This study highlights the importance of the pleural cavity and its contents in lung health, offering insights for potential flu treatments. The focus now is on identifying proteins directing macrophages to the lungs, intending to develop drugs to boost their quantity or activity.

Pathogens becoming resistant to pathogens

The focus on enhancing the body’s natural defenses presents a promising alternative to traditional antiviral drugs, which are increasingly challenged by drug resistance. Morrison highlights the growing issue of pathogens becoming resistant to medications, resulting in over 2.8 million drug-resistant infections annually in the U.S. alone, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Morrison, by boosting the body’s ability to resolve infections, there is a reduced likelihood of developing resistance. The researcher emphasizes the complexity of the immune system but advocates for working with it rather than constantly pursuing viruses that evade therapeutics.

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