The immunity system of our body takes care of a lot of tasks such as monitoring cancerous cells, removing damaged tissue and initiating inflammatory responses to combat infection or injury.
This versatility indicates that these cells can be reprogrammed again and again to serve different functions. Scientists have been trying to find a way to understand the trigger that reprograms these cells.
Through their research they have found that these cells can be activated by “eating” a specific type of cell, which triggers specific response.
To understand this phenomenon, scientists observed the activity of these cells in fruit flies, which let them to discover that these macrophages could only be triggered after eating a dead body cell.
As a result of this meal, an increase in a particular type of receptor known as Draper receptors was observed. This receptor plays a role in detecting damaged tissue and guiding macrophages to the site of action.
To try and trigger this activity manually, the researchers used concentrated blasts of ultraviolet light to kill apoptotic cells in the fruit fly embryos and discovered that, once these became engulfed by macrophages, an inflammatory response became possible.
If replicated in the human body, this same method could then be used to control the activation of macrophages, which would make it possible to activate the immune system for specific tasks.
The scientists are now working on finding methods of replicating this technique in a larger, yet more purpose driven way to test it’s efficiency as a potential cure for different types of diseases.