A new approach that shows some interesting potential for aiding the healing of skin infections and wounds has been unearthed by scientists from Canada’s University of Calgary.
This promising new method was revealed in a study published in the journal Nature. It could transform how wounds and bacterial infections of the skin are treated by relying on something different from the usual.
According to this research, monocytes are capable of singly promoting quicker wound healing. This marks a sort of departure from what scientists previously thought.
“While translating our research from bench to bedside will require many more experiments and involve a model more closely related to human disease, it is exciting that we have made a fundamental discovery that could improve infections and tissue repair in humans, especially hard-to-treat cases,” said Dr. Rachel Kratofil, who is the study’s first author.
The thinking in the scientific community had been that two types of white blood cells, neutrophils, and monocytes, were required to deal with skin infections. These cells combine to provide the first line of defense for our bodies against infections, scientists believed.
However, this study suggests that monocytes can singly do a good job of promoting wound healing. These white blood cells regulate leptin levels as well as the growth of blood vessels to aid wound healing. They also play a part in the production of the hormone ghrelin, which helps wounds to heal better, as per researchers.
The stomach produces ghrelin while leptin is made from fat cells after eating to your fill. Scientists have long known that the ghrelin-leptin balance was key for diet and metabolism. However, the link of this balance to the immune system and tissue repair was not visible before now.
In this research, Kratofil examined the immune system’s response to the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in an animal model. She did this with the aid of intravital microscopy, which is a specialization of the lab of co-senior author Dr. Paul Kubes.
Usually detectable on the skin or in the nose, S. aureus is linked to many diseases that are linked to skin or tissue infections. These diseases range from minor issues, such as boils and abscesses, to potentially life-threatening problems, such as endocarditis. Neutrophils and monocytes are recruited by the body to help in the aftermath of an S. aureus infection.
Researchers say neutrophils aid in clearing bacteria while monocytes help with tissue repair. Higher leptin production and blood vessel growth in infection are observed when monocytes are lacking, thus slowing healing and promoting scarring.
However, ghrelin produced at the site of infection by monocytes bars excess blood vessel growth that could slow tissue repair.
A change of approach
These researchers think their study makes a case for the introduction of metabolic hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, in immunology and microbiology.
“This research is important because it indicates a paradigm shift challenging the current thinking that neutrophils and monocytes clear bacteria,” Kratofil said. “Our study elevates the role of monocytes in wound repair.”
Kubes, who is the study’s principal investigator, stated it would be interesting to see how ghrelin and leptin respond in other models of diseases, including cancer. It would be remarkable to find out how the processes change in cases of comorbidity – for example when someone has diabetes and is obese.
The researchers are now planning to further probe the roles of neutrophils and other immune cells in infections. They want to know if neutrophils serve other purposes besides clearing infections, among other things.