Sticky meshworks of DNA and proteins extruded by white blood cells called neutrophils act as the glue that binds together calcium and cholesterol crystals during gallstone formation, researchers in Germany report in an article published online on August 15, 2019 in Immunity. The article is titled “"Neutrophil Extracellular Traps Initiate Gallstone Formation.” Both genetic and pharmacological approaches that inhibited the formation of these so-called neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) reduced the formation and growth of gallstones in mice. "Neutrophils have long been considered the first line of defense against infection and have been shown to generate NETs that entangle and kill pathogens," says senior study author Martin Herrmann, MD, PhD, an immunologist at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen in Germany. "Here, we provide additional evidence for the double-edged-sword nature of these NETs by showing that they play an important role in the assembly and growth of gallstones. Targeting neutrophils and NET formation may become an attractive instrument to prevent gallstones in high-risk populations." Gallstones (image) are hard, pebble-like pieces of material that may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. They form in a pear-shaped organ called the gallbladder, which releases bile to the small intestine through the bile ducts during meals to help break down fat. Although most people with gallstones do not have symptoms, they can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, and they are a leading cause of hospital admissions worldwide. Surgery to remove the gallbladder is one of the most common operations performed on adults in the United States.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story