[Researcher of the Month] Nonfoamy Macrophages, More Effective in Restraining Arteriosclerosis
Professor Choi Jae-hoon (Department of Life Science)
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Department of Life Science Professor Choi Jae-hoon's thesis: "Transcriptome analysis reveals nonfoamy rather than foamy plaque macrophages are proinflammatory in atherosclerotic murine models" was officially published offline on October 26th of this year through the Circulation Research Journal. The objective of the study was to examine the state of foamy and nonfoamy macrophages to determine which are more likely to drive lesional inflammation.
“The single-cell RNA sequencing” technique was selected as the breakthrough of the year by the 2018 science journal. That is, now it was possible to study how and when each cell creates a leg, a foot, or a tail through the single-cell RNA sequencing. Recently, technology has developed to the extent that using this technique has made it possible to catch the change of a gene in a single cell, instead of many cells.
Inflammation is the reaction of our body in the case of injury or infection. Activating an immunocyte is a process of curing inflammation. Similarly, if lipids (simply known as fat) accumulate in blood vessels and bring infections to the body, the immunocytes that follow the inflammation are a compound of cells including macrophages and a lymphocytes. Among those, macrophages are one of the most important cells, which acts as a cleaner, eating up dead or damaged organic body. These macrophages detect and eliminate lipids effectively at first, but when lipids pile up, it becomes difficult to remove, and the infection tends to grow.
The initial state of macrophages before they eat up lipids is called nonfoamy macrophages. Macrophages grows bigger as they consume lipids, and this state is known as foamy macrophages. Initially attacked macrophages actively trigger inflammation, whereas macrophages that consumed many lipids do not contain much genes related to infection and instead work hard to eliminate lipids.
In the past, analysis was done on the whole rather than respecting the individual traits of single cells. Through single-cell RNA sequencing, they first discovered that macrophages that came into the blood vessel before the uptake of lipid facilitated inflammatory responses. On the other hand, the macrophages that had become bigger by consuming lipids lacked the ability to be inflamed, effectively eliminating lipids.
Nonfoamy macrophages must be restrained. “The fire broke out in the nonfoamy state, so the fire must be put out in such a state,” stated professor Choi. The foamy macrophages take care of infections in the beginning, but when they cannot handle them, they die and the cells burst, creating inflammation all over again. Suppressing nonfoamy macrophages is a much more effective way to restrain arteriosclerosis since nonfoamy macrophages promote inflammation.
The beginning of professor Choi’s research was when one of his graduate students performed an experiment of extracting only the foamy macrophages in order to grasp the traits of them. That was in the year 2012, a year after he first came to Hanyang University.
Professor Choi also studied at Washington State University for a year with his studies concluding in January of this year. The single-cell RNA sequencing, an integral part of research needed for his thesis, was conducted in Washington as the same technique was not available at Hanyang University. Professor Choi expressed his hopes to perform similar research in Korea in the future, when Hanyang University is equipped with the available sources. He enthusiastically went on to say that he wanted to further study bioinformatics, which is a technique used to analyze the big data that single-cell RNA sequencing produces.
Professor Choi emphasized the need to accurately analyze what is going on in a living body, and advised students to do research that can help many people. “Just like the study of life science, look further into the future rather than seeing short term results and gains.”
Kim Hyun-soo firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lee Jin-myung
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