In a discovery that may have implications for patients who suffer from chronic lung diseases, researchers in the Department of Basic Sciences at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences have garnered international interest for their work on the role a protein plays in regulating how neutrophils—the body's "first responders" to an infection—capture and filter out pathogenic bacteria.
The prestigious international Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) will soon publish a paper by the research team led by Assistant Professor Jyotika Sharma, PhD, a microbial immunologist. Her team is composed of Atul Sharma, PhD, postdoctoral fellow; Anthony L. Steichen, third-year PhD student; Christopher N. Jondle, second-year PhD student; and Assistant Professor Bibhuti B. Mishra, PhD.
The JID is the premier global journal for original research on infectious diseases, describing research results from microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and related disciplines, on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases; on the microbes that cause them; and on disorders of host-immune responses. The JID is an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which has more than 9,000 members.
The title of the paper by Sharma et al. is "Protective role of Mincle in bacterial pneumonia by regulation of neutrophil mediated phagocytosis and extracellular trap formation."
Studies by Sharma's team show the protective role of a host protein called Mincle in defense against bacterial pneumonia by coordinating bacterial clearance mechanisms of the body's "first-responder" immune cells called neutrophils. Specifically, they found a novel role for Mincle in controlling a unique function of neutrophils called "NET" formation, (an acronym for neutrophil extracellular traps), which may have very widespread implications in lung disease conditions beyond pneumonia.
While the NETs are known to trap and kill bacteria, they have also been shown to cause inflammation in some autoimmune diseases. Sharma and her team think that too much NET formation in diseases where neutrophils are present in very high numbers may be the root cause of inflammation in these diseases. So the information about involvement of Mincle in NET formation can offer new means to design effective treatments for these diseases.
"Mincle-mediated NET formation is currently a very exciting area of research in my lab," Sharma said.
"And I can see how important these studies can be, not only for understanding lung diseases per se but also several autoimmune diseases like arthritis and lupus where too much NET formation is already shown to be part of the problem. It is of great interest for us to see if NETs or for that matter Mincle can be used as a diagnostic biomarker or as a predictor for these diseases. This will certainly open up new avenues for the development of therapeutic strategies for several inflammatory diseases."
Funding for Sharma and her team is provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and a UND Faculty Research Seed grant to Sharma.
Sharma's team has plans for future research. "We have already started looking at NET formation and the role of Mincle in this process by collaborating with clinicians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.," Sharma said. "We are very excited about the prospects of these studies and have submitted a grant proposal based on our findings."
Contact: Denis MacLeod, assistant director, Office of Alumni and Community Relations, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, (701) 777-2733, email@example.com