Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell. They play a vital role in defending us from infections, by engulfing and destroying bacteria and viruses or cancerous cells. A new study by UC Davis engineering student Emmet Francis, working with Professor Volkmar Heinrich in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, adds to our knowledge of how neutrophils are drawn towards infection sites and how they can attack their targets.
First, Francis and Heinrich looked at how isolated neutrophils respond to chemical messengers called anaphylatoxins. These molecules guide immune cells to their targets but can cause severe illness in excessive amounts.