New Discovery in Anemia Treatment

A new way to trigger the red blood cell production reveals a surprising role of dendritic cells involved in red blood cell production.

The team that did the work, led by Thomas J. Braciale, a professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, describes the discovery in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue — occur because organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly.

 The researchers, who were running a test of the flu virus in mice, discovered an unexpected effect that led them to discover dendritic cells also have a completely different, and previously unknown, role.

They saw the effect when they injected the mice with the flu virus and an antibody that blocked a certain molecule expressed by dendritic cells.

The first thing that happened was the mice’s spleen become huge. This totally unexpected result baffled the researchers, so they ran the test again, and the same thing happened. Prof. Braciale takes up the story:

“We did it again and I didn’t believe it, and we did it again and I didn’t believe it. I asked whether you needed to flu infect the mice when you injected this antibody. So the postdoc [a lab member] did the experiment, and he just injected the antibody without flu injecting the mice. Giant spleens. After much consultation, after talking with my colleagues in Pathology, we decided we were inducing stress erythropoiesis.”

Prof. Braciale says it appears that the process of regulating stress in the body involves dendritic cells. Stress can arise from a number of sources – it can be infection, inflammation; it can be anemia, it can be hemorrhage.

Although there is a lot of work to do before a treatment that triggers dendritic cells to make red blood cells is ready for use in humans, Prof. Braciale is optimistic, because, as he explains:

“We know that the same things can be done in humans in the following sense. There are mice called humanized mice. These are mice that are engineered so they have a human blood system. And if you inject these mice with this antibody, they’ll make red blood cells.”

Courtesy : MNT

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