These may look like lightning traces crackling across the sky but this storm is happening on a much smaller scale, triggered by an infection or injury deep inside a muscle. Within minutes the area is flooded with white blood cells called neutrophils (stained pink), which rush out of the blood vessels (blue and green) and get to work. Neutrophils are the body’s first response against damage and infections, eating up invading bacteria and producing chemicals that attract other components of the immune system to come and join the fight – a process known as inflammation. But while this is an important part of our body’s defences, a build-up of neutrophils in the brain or heart following a heart attack or stroke can actually increase damage and cause further problems. Scientists are investigating exactly what causes this neutrophil storm, with the aim of developing more effective treatments for strokes and heart disease.
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