My research interests are focused on a cell called the macrophage, which is Greek for “big eaters.” Macrophages gobble up debris and foreign substances that enter our body to prevent infection, and in doing so, use signaling proteins to warn their neighbors, as well as distant cells about the invading pathogen. This research found that activated macrophages have a large and lively social network.
Not only are macrophages extremely talkative, sending out numerous messaging signals when activated, but also become very good listeners of their environment by expressing more signal receivers. And, when threatened, macrophages and other responding immune cells tap their social network to coordinate efficient pathogen elimination.
While scientists often study specific types of cells in isolation, this research tells us that we need to look at a cell’s relationship status, friend requests and online activity – their social network. Re-establishing normal communication between immune cells may be the key to restoring immune signaling following the onset of autoimmune disease.
Read the full study here.
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