Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense, occurring as droves of immune cells rush to the site of injury or acute illness to make repairs and stem further damage.
When successful, inflammation helps the body survive and heal after trauma. However, when recovery following an inflammatory response goes awry, it signals that damage is still occurring — and the inflammation itself can cause further injury, leading to more-severe illness or even death.
But what differentiates a good inflammatory recovery from a bad one?
A new study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, published Aug. 22 in Nature Communications, yields critical clues.
The scientists identified universal features of the inflammatory responses of patients who successfully recovered after surgery or acute illnesses such as COVID-19, heart attack, and sepsis. These features, they discovered, include precise paths that white blood cell and platelet counts follow as they return to normal.