Toronto: Scientists have developed a new imaging technique that can show how white blood cells, or neutrophils, respond to inflammation - a research that may lead to new class of treatments for inflammatory diseases.
When the body is invaded by infection, the immune system counters by generating inflammation with deployment of white blood cells to the site of danger to kill invading bacteria.
However, inappropriate inflammation occurs in the absence of infection when tissues are damaged and this contributes to diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.
Now, researchers at the University of Calgary, Canada, used both experimental animal models and human white blood cells to discover that damaged tissue can release signals that attract white blood cells.
Blocking these signal can help prevent inappropriate inflammation and several diseases that occur because of this, according to the researches who detailed their study in the journal of Science.
"We have known how white blood cells find their way to sites of infection for many years, but understanding how, or even why white blood cells go to sites of sterile non-infectious tissue damage has been a real dilemma," said Dr Paul Kubes, the senior author of the study.
"Recognising that damaged cells release `bacteria-like` signals that attract white blood cells and cause inflammation might allow for the development of a whole new class of therapeutics to combat inflammatory diseases."
Another remarkable aspect of the research, according to the researchers, is that scientists were able to take unprecedented real-time videos of the neutrophils activity at sites of inflammation.
The University of Calgary is one of very few centres in the world using this imaging technology, called spinning disk confocal intravial microscopy, to study the inflammatory response.
Braedon McDonald, the lead author of the study, said: "These powerful imaging systems allow us to tackle complicated problems by directly observing the activity of the immune system in the body.
"Our laboratory is perhaps the only in Canada, and amongst a select few in the world that have this technology, so it is truly a privilege to contribute to this research."