News FocusImmunology

Mouse Studies Challenge Rare Immune Cell's Powers

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Science  24 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5999, pp. 1595
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5999.1595

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Long dismissed as "cannon fodder," as one immunologist puts it, the white blood cells known as basophils have been enjoying a renaissance. Findings published mainly within the past 5 years portrayed basophils as take-charge cells that control maturation of key defensive cells, instigate counterattacks against invaders, and even help the immune system remember. But researchers who just 2 months ago were touting basophils' powers are now using words such as "reassess" and "reconsider." That's because three papers published this month question whether the cells perform several jobs recently ascribed to them. Some immunologists say they are already convinced that the previous basophil work was wrong, whereas other researchers declare themselves puzzled by the contradiction.