Scientists found that a special kind of white blood cell could potentially be stimulated to migrate to the lungs of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patients and help repair fibrosis damage.

They showed how this process occurs naturally in mice with lung fibrosis. The study, “TRAIL-Dependent Resolution of Pulmonary Fibrosis,” was published in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.

IPF involves scarring, or fibrosis, in the lungs, which leads to a decrease in their function. Activated fibroblasts and myofibroblasts are cells involved in scarring, and are thought to be responsible for the injury seen in IPF.

Studies have shown that white blood cells — myeloid cells — that carry a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) on their surfaces help to resolve fibrosis. These cells originate in the bone marrow and are induced to travel to the site of fibrosis in the body, where they block the activity of offending fibroblasts and myofibroblasts.