I’m excited this week to bring you an immunology article for Science Sunday! New Test Could Diagnose Asthma With A Single Drop Of Blood was published in Pop Sci on April 18, 2014.
- Neutrophils (…researchers found that neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, of asthmatics move more slowly than the cells of those without asthma.)
- Chemotaxis (the scientific paper that this article is based on is titled Characterizing asthma from a drop of blood using neutrophil chemotaxis)
Obviously I think that immunology is the best field of science 😉 but all kidding aside, it doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, so I am always pleasantly surprised to see mentions of it in the news. I found this article especially nice because it’s outside the fields that typically bring immunology into the news- cancer and infectious disease.
Asthma is a hugely prevalent disease throughout the world, and this study highlights a way to diagnose asthma based on the speed that neutrophils migrate towards a chemotactic gradient. The paper indicates that neutrophils of asthmatics migrate more slowly than non-asthmatics’.
My main question after reading the Pop Sci article and the abstract of the paper in PNAS was that the authors only compared the neutrophil chemotaxis between people with asthma and people with allergic rhinitis (presumably because some of the symptoms of the two diseases are the same). While this then presents their technology as a good tool for a differential diagnosis between these two diseases, I’m left wondering whether there are any other diseases that cause neutrophils to roll more slowly than normal- and a cursory Google search tells me yes. [Though unfortunately I cannot see the entire PNAS paper because it is behind a pay wall], based on the abstract, methods, and many news articles on this new technology, it appears as though the question of comparing the velocity of neutrophil rolling between asthma patients and people with other diseases that cause slowed neutrophil movement has not been addressed. I think this is an important point if this technology moves forward in a clinical setting.