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Drug development

Imatinib mimics physiological response to produce antimicrobial effects

Sections of spleens taken from mice treated with imatinib. Sections were stained with anti-CD169 for marginal zone macrophages (green), anti-F4/80 to recognize red pulp myeloid cells (blue), and anti-CD11b to recognize neutrophils and monocytes (red)

Source: Napier RJ, Norris BA, Swimm A et al. / PLoS Pathogens 2015

Researchers treated mice with imatinib then stained sections of their spleens to identify macrophages (green), myeloid cells (blue) and neutrophils and monocytes (red)

Imatinib mesylate (Glivec) is used as an anticancer drug but it also has activity against bacteria and viruses, acting on cellular mechanisms used by pathogens to move into, through or out of cells.

According to research reported in PLoS Pathogens[1] on 30 March 2015, imatinib at very low doses mimics a physiological innate response to infection in the bone marrow. Called the “emergency response”, it causes haematopoietic stem cells and multipotent progenitors to expand and differentiate into mature myeloid cells that migrate to peripheral sites.

“Mimicking a physiological antimicrobial response may make imatinib broadly useful,” say the researchers. “Thus, potentiation of the immune response by imatinib at low doses may facilitate clearance of diverse microbial pathogens.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068307

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Supplementary images

  • Researchers treated mice with imatinib then stained sections of their spleens with anti-CD169 to identify marginal zone macrophages (green), anti-F4/80 to recognize red pulp myeloid cells (blue), and anti-CD11b to recognize neutrophils and monocytes (red)

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