Reprogramming cells: Pneumonia changes immune cells
Researchers recently found that after the lungs recover, our body can reprogram the cells. After infection, the alveolar macrophages, the immune cells that live in the lungs protect them from infections, are different in several ways. These differences can also remain indefinitely.
How can the lungs reprogram cells?
How the lungs can protect themselves in young adults is complex and is only slowly being understood. However, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) suggest that the new alveolar macrophage biology, which results from previous experience with infections, is one of the elements that help protect the lungs of young adults from pneumonia.
“We have found that these immune cells have a memory of their previous experiences. This memory influences how they react to subsequent challenges such as later infections, ”explained the corresponding author Joseph Mizgerd, professor of medicine, microbiology and biochemistry at the BUSM.
Pneumonia continues to be a serious public health burden worldwide. Every year, more than a million children under the age of five die from pneumonia and its complications. Pneumonia is also the most common reason for hospitalization of children. It accounts for almost half of this in connection with infectious diseases and the death of older adults.
In this study, the researchers infected experimental models with a bacterium called pneumococcus. This is a normal experience for people in childhood, after which one can then relax. The scientists have never infected another set of models. The team then compared the alveolar macrophages in the lungs of these two different groups, including the receptors on the cell surfaces. In doing so, they experimented with the genes of these cells and the metabolites in these cells. The alveolar macrophages in the models that had recovered from pneumonia differed from all of these readings by a new baseline. In addition, their alveolar macrophages reacted differently to subsequent infections than the alveolar macrophages in the lungs without infection.
According to the researchers, young children are extremely susceptible to pneumonia. However, several types of defense develop in childhood that protect against pneumonia and persist in young adulthood. “The combination of aging, poor lifestyle and disease worsens this lung defense, making it more susceptible to pneumonia in later years,” added Mizgerd.
By elucidating the naturally acquired immune system against pneumonia in young healthy adults, the researchers aim to use this study to better identify the people most at risk of pneumonia and to develop new strategies for preventing or curing pneumonia.
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