A unique infection-fighting blood cell precursor that arises during acute malaria infections is identified in a report published online this week in Nature Immunology. These findings can lead to new methods of "tricking" the blood supply system to make more disease fighting immune cells.
New-born blood cells develop in the bone marrow. Alexandre Potocnik and colleagues discovered that mice infected with the parasite Plasmodium chabaudi, a causal agent of malaria, transiently generate a distinct bone marrow cell that can develop into potent disease-fighting innate immune cells.
The infection-induced cells arise in response to a proinflammatory mediator called interferon-gamma, which is released by infections elsewhere in the body. Thus active infection triggers responses in the bone marrow to ramp up production of defensive cells necessary to attack and repel the infection.
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