Israel researchers uncover secrets of how a certain white blood cell can flip from being a ‘good guy’ to a ‘bad guy’ in diseases with no current cure.
A type of white blood cell called a macrophage is one tricky customer. Expose macrophages to a certain stimulus and they’ll promote healing. But expose them to a different stimulus and they actually make the condition worse.
A team of Israeli researchers is making unprecedented progress in mapping the mechanism of these “good guy, bad guy” cells and understanding their role in the progression of two deadly diseases: colorectal cancer and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), an incurable lung condition.
“We identified a cell-surface receptor on the macrophages, paired immunoglobulin-like receptor B (PIR-B), that regulates their response to suppress their wound-healing capacity,” explains Ariel Munitz, a researcher in the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at Tel Aviv University.
PIR-B sends out a signal to stop macrophage action before it goes into “overdrive” and does harm. Therefore, this receptor could be good candidate for drugs targeting diseases linked to macrophage activity.
“Macrophages have a role in colorectal cancer, and that’s how we got interested in them,” Munitz says. Doctoral student Danielle Karo-Atar did the experiments in his lab, which focuses on how macrophages behave.