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Thursday 24th May 2018

Natural bleach plays role in healing

9th June 2009

The body's own hydrogen peroxide aids in its immune defences, scientists have recently found.


It plays a key role in fighting off diseases, as well as in healing wounds.

Researchers in the US studied zebrafish, which share genes in common with humans, in order to investigate human immune responses.

They found that a burst of hydrogen peroxide accompanies tissue damage, which seems to be the reason why white blood cells converge at injury sites.

The finding may also help researchers to gain an understanding of the biological mechanism that causes asthma.

Asthma has been linked to a high presence of white blood cells, as have some  inflammatory gut diseases and lung obstructions.

Though zebrafish look very different from humans, they are often used to investigate human biological processes.

For their study on zebrafish, scientists tried inserting a gene that glows in the presence of hydrogen peroxide.

Using that method, they were able to observe that molecules of hydrogen peroxide burst into tail fin injuries in the cells of the fish.

Across the body of the fish, groups of white blood cells responded to the chemical signal, beginning the healing process at the site of the tail injury.

On the other hand, when the scientists blocked the action of hydrogen peroxide, the white blood cells failed to swarm to the site of the wound.

Timothy Mitchison of Harvard University said that scientists have known for quite some time that white blood cells appear when the body is wounded.

He said that this is a spectacular piece of biology because the blood cells detect the wound at some distance, and that scientists previously did not know what summoned white blood cells to areas that have been injured, though they knew what happened to those that are chronically inflamed.

The human body produces hydrogen peroxide in the lungs, gut, and thyroid gland.

Mitchison said that in conditions like asthma, the lung epithelia may be  producing too much hydrogen peroxide because of chronic irritation.

He said that, if the studies on the zebrafish prove relevant for humans, the same mechanism would explain inappropriate levels of white blood cells in the body.

Leslie Knapp of the University of Cambridge said that while hydrogen peroxide is routinely used for wound cleaning and for the prevention of infection, some laboratory-based studies suggest that it interferes with the activities of cells that form connective tissue.

She said that the new study could provide new insight into immune function and the causes of various inflammatory diseases in humans.


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