Neutrophils, these immune cells are often the first to arrive at an infected inflamed site. And, in the case of some autoimmune diseases, hyperactive neutrophil activity can exacerbate inflammatory damage.
A team of researchers, from the University of Michigan and Ohio State University, has now discovered a novel sub-type of neutrophil. Using mouse models the researchers revealed this new cell type possesses unique neuroregenerative properties.
"This immune cell subset secretes growth factors that enhance the survival of nerve cells following traumatic injury to the central nervous system", explains Benjamin Segal. "It stimulates severed nerve fibers to regrow in the central nervous system, which is really unprecedented".
When administered to mice with damaged spinal cords or optic nerves, the cells essentially prompt new cellular growth promoting nervous system repair.
Looking beyond animal models, the researchers also homed in on a human immune cell line with the same kind of regenerative characteristics, meaning this mechanism could be transferable to human subjects.
“A human cell line with characteristics of immature neutrophils also exhibited neuro-regenerative capacity, suggesting that our observations might be translatable to the clinic", adds Sas.
It’s early days for the research but the implications of the discovery are profoundly promising. If this novel immune cell line can be harnessed for human clinical use then, it could slow, stop, or even reverse, a huge variety of degenerative neurological and nervous system diseases.