A team of scientists recently developed a new strategy to determine monocyte subsets involved in diseases. The results could help facilitating the diagnosis of sarcoidosis and may improve the respective patient management.
Monocytes are white blood cells that are crucial to human immune defense. They are precursor cells of macrophages and dendritic cells and are circulating in the blood until they invade their respective target tissue where they defend the body against exogenous structures. So far, scientist categorized subtypes of monocytes only with regards to the surface markers CD14 and CD16 - however, this might change in the future.
In the current study, the team headed by Prof. Loems Ziegler-Heitbrock was able to show that the analysis of an additional marker molecule called slan allows a more precise determination of monocyte subgroups.
The results of the researchers show that this classification might also lead to a better understanding of certain diseases.
To this end Dr. Thomas Hofer and Dr. Marion Frankenberger, scientists of the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) at Helmholtz Zentrum München, analyzed blood samples of patients suffering from sarcoidosis.
This disease, which often leads to damage of the patients' lungs, is caused by a strong immune reaction and a concomitant formation of nodules in the tissue. The underlying mechanisms are still unclear but scientists are convinced that monocytes play a critical role.
"Our data clearly indicate which subtype of the monocytes is involved in the disease", explains Hofer. "In the patients' blood we found significant numbers of monocytes, which were positive for CD16 and negative for slan."
According to Hofer, these cells might play a major role in sarcoidosis.