Study Finds Red Blood Cells Bind Cell-Free DNA Via TLR9 During Sepsis and Result Is Inflammation and Anemia; Findings May Open Door to New Treatments for Inflammatory Diseases

New research has revealed that red blood cells (RBCs) function as critical immune sensors by binding cell-free DNA present in the body’s circulation during sepsis and COVID-19, and that this DNA-binding capability triggers removal of these RBCs from circulation, driving inflammation and anemia during severe illness and playing a much larger role in the immune system than previously thought. Scientists have long known that RBCs, which are essential in delivering oxygen throughout the body, also interacted with the immune system, but didn’t know whether they directly altered inflammation, until now. The study, led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), was published online on October 20, 2021 in Science Translational Medicine. The open-access article is titled “DNA Binding to TLR9 Expressed by Red Blood Cells Promotes Innate Immune Activation and Anemia.”
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