(RxWiki News) Following major surgery or serious trauma such as a car wreck it's not uncommon for patients to suffer pain or organ damage in other parts of their body that seem unrelated to the injury. Researchers think they may have discovered why that is the case.
Scientists at Queen Mary University of London believe they can shed new light on the dilemma.
"The finding could prompt new therapies."
Researchers examined the way white blood cells, or neutrophils, move out of blood vessels to defend damaged organs against infection or injury. But to their surprise they discovered that the process can at times go in reverse. When that occurs, rogue super-activated neutrophils reenter the blood stream and cause damage to other areas of the body.
In order to watch the movement of the neutrophils in three dimensional real time in mice, researchers using a new imaging technology. They observed the neutrophils move out of the blood vessels to aid injury or infection, controlled by a protein on the surface of the vessels called JAM-C.
But when the vessels were temporarily blocked to mimic major surgery trauma, JAM-C was lost from the blood vessels and the neutrophils lost their way. Cells that had already left the blood vessels returned to the blood stream and damaged other parts of the body.
In particular, the researchers discovered that these confused but highly activated neutrophils lodged into blood vessels in the lungs where they appeared to cause inflammation and damage to lungs.
Additional research on the properties of rogue neutrophils could lead to the development of drugs aimed at reducing life threatening complications following major surgeries such as inflammation of the lungs.
The researchers received funding from the Wellcome Trust. The study was published in journal Nature Immunology.