Researchers have found that macrophages - white blood cells that play a key role in the immune response - also help to both produce and eliminate the body's red blood cells (RBCs). The researchers are from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
It is hoped that the findings could lead to novel therapies for diseases or conditions in which the red blood cell production is thrown out of balance.
"Our findings offer intriguing new insights into how the body maintains a healthy balance of red blood cells," said study leader Paul Frenette, M.D., professor of medicine and of cell biology and director of the Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research at Einstein.
"We've shown that macrophages in the bone marrow and the spleen nurture the production of new red blood cells at the same time that they clear aging red blood cells from the circulation. This understanding may ultimately help us to devise new therapies for conditions that lead to abnormal RBC counts, such as hemolytic anemia, polycythemia vera, and acute blood loss, plus aid recovery from chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation."
The study was recently published in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.