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White blood cell warning system ‘sprays’ DNA to alert other cells

| | January 8, 2018

The GLP posts this article or excerpt as part of a daily curated selection of biotechnology-related news, opinion and analysis.

When some of our white blood cells detect viruses or other microbes that have invaded our bodies, they may alert other cells to the threat by spraying out some of their DNA. This unexpected warning system, described in a study…could hasten the body’s response to pathogens.

Researchers already know that some of our cells deploy DNA to directly fight infections. Immune cells known as neutrophils can eject their DNA, forming a mesh of sticky strands called a neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) that captures and kills microbes. Other immune cells generate similar DNA snares.

Although our bodies have several mechanisms for identifying threats and notifying other cells, “we have discovered a parallel signaling system for cell danger,” [immunologist Anders] Rosén says. The advantage of [mitochondrial DNA] as a warning may be speed, says [biochemist Björn] Ingelsson, who sees it as “a rapid messenger molecule” that can induce a protective response in minutes. Other immune defenses typically require hours or even days to mobilize.

Other studies have found high levels of free-floating mtDNA in patients who have been wounded or suffer from a variety of illnesses, including heart disease, certain infections, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. But whether this DNA is the same as the newly documented webs remains unclear.

Read full, original post: White blood cells launch DNA ‘webs’ to warn of invaders

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