A promising new study, published in the journal Nature Immunology, is describing the discovery of a novel kind of immune cell with the apparent ability to not only prevent the progressive neurological degeneration associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and ALS, but which may even regenerate and repair damaged cells.
Neutrophils are a little like the body's first responders. 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 corresponding author, Benjamin Segal. "It stimulates severed nerve fibers to regrow in the central nervous system, which is really unprecedented."
The immune cell ostensibly resembles an immature neutrophil but with a few impressive, and unexpected, tricks up its sleeve. When administered to mice with damaged spinal cords or optic nerves, the cells essentially prompt new cellular growth promoting nervous system repair.