4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020


Study sheds light on how immune cells in the lungs may worsen virus attacks

Posted at 4:06 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 17:42:46-05

(WXYZ) — A new study from Sweden sheds light on how immune cells in the lungs may worsen virus attacks like COVID-19.

The human body is very complex. Up until now, there hasn’t been much research on a type of immune cell called macrophages and how the lungs develop them. So, where do they come from? Well, our bodies have white blood cells called monocytes.

These monocytes cruise around in our blood for a few days. While doing this, they can migrate into body tissue. Once they enter tissue, they convert into macrophages. Now, macrophages found in the lungs can help protect the lungs from virus attacks. But they can also, under certain conditions, contribute to lung diseases like what we’re seeing with COVID-19.

This new research helps shine a light on what might be happening. The researchers used a model to study the development of macrophages in a living lung. They also used RNA sequencing which is a way to study gene activity. Here’s what they found: A certain type of macrophage may contribute to severe inflammation and infections. In particular with COVID-19, the researchers believe that the good macrophages that are anti-inflammatory and protective - are replaced with not-so-good pro-inflammatory macrophages. The existence of these has been connected to the amount of damage COVID does to a person’s lungs and how sick they get. Now, on a positive note, the researchers feel that severe lung damage and death could be reduced if future treatments focus on the inflammatory lung macrophages.

There are a lot of things people can do. Let’s start by not smoking. Smoking can make air passages narrow and cause chronic inflammation. You should also avoid indoor pollutants and outdoor air pollution. Now, what I highly recommend is healthy eating and exercise. Daily movement makes your lungs stronger. A well-balanced diet that includes high-fiber foods, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables can provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that are great for lung health. One very important thing to do right now is to prevent infections like the coronavirus. So, wash your hands often, wear a mask, and please keep your distance from people who are not in your household. Once a COVID-19 vaccine is available to you, please do get vaccinated.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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