It’s a classic case of false accusations. For years we’ve blamed neutrophils [immune cells that rush to fresh wounds, pictured in red swarming over an injury] for exacerbating inflammation – one of the body’s responses to injury. We were so sure they were doing more harm than good that several treatments even aim to block their action. But new research suggests we might not be giving them the credit they deserve. Watching neutrophil activity in real time in a wound on a mouse’s liver, the study found that they efficiently dismantle and clean up damaged material, clearing the way for new growth. And what’s more, once the job is done they don’t hang around, getting in the way like we thought. They remove themselves, taking the long trip back to where they came from: the bone marrow, meaning we may need to rethink our approach to these under-appreciated workers.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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