Mount Sinai logoBone marrow cells play a vital role in combating respiratory viruses, thus making them a viable therapeutic target, most importantly in people with comparatively weak immune systems. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine claim to have observed for the first time various infections evolving in the respiratory tract that are now anticipated to be treated by cells produced by the bone marrow. These cells are directed towards the lungs to help fight the infection.

The research team observed the immune response towards the infection in the lung and blood of mice. They also noticed that after being contagion, the lung became inflamed and produced interferons which were messages that signaled the bone marrow cells about the existence of the virus. This appeared to then prepare them to combat the infection, thus creating a resistance against the infection.

Prior researches conducted on the immune response towards respiratory viruses highlighted specific immune cells that obtain an effective function in the lymph nodes of the infected animals. The cells were noted to evolve subsequently at a later stage, but were very effective in wiping off the virus and creating a resistance shield against reinfection with the same virus. This research is the first to shed light on another important detail mainly that the process of removal of the virus is more effective when the cells in the bone marrow revive at the earliest.

“Our research shows that in addition to the regulation of the development of cells, the immune response is regulated at a much earlier stage by influencing cells in the distal bone marrow and that this regulation of what is known as the innate immune response is important for the efficient clearance of the infection,” commented Carolina Lopez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the lead investigator. “Very limited research has been done to evaluate bone marrow’s response to a virus infection. Our study is the first to determine the pivotal role bone marrow cells play in fighting a respiratory infection. This discovery has broad-reaching implications in boosting protection against viruses.”

Detailed analysis was conducted after the mice were infected. The immune cells active in the lung, blood and bone marrow were tracked daily to obtain inflammatory responses. The researchers observed that interferons or anti-viral proteins, and cytokines were largely produced by the infected lung but on the other hand the cells in the bone marrow responded positively by generating a number of anti-viral proteins known to persuaded by the interferons.

Furthermore, it was seen that cells from the bone marrow of the infected mice were protected from the virus and were able to increase production of cytokines when faced with a particular virus. The analysis explained that the bone marrow cells are alerted even with a slight infection faced by the lung and that the cells produced help to overcome the infection in the lungs

“The findings may be especially significant for people with compromised immune systems, including transplant and HIV patients,” said Dr. Lopez.

Having a positive outlook she continued saying that these patients are treated with anti-viral drugs to help them fight against infection or revival of chronic viruses, as these infections are harmful and have a chance of becoming systemic in people with less resistant immune systems. This new dimension will serve as a great opportunity to prevent and treat lethal infections.

The findings are published in the current issue of Cell Host & Microbe.