Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Red blood cell production relies on white blood cell help

Red blood cell production in the bone marrow is a precarious process. Too few RBCs and you can become anemic; too many and you could be suffering from polycythemia vera, a rare, so-called ‘myeloproliferative’ genetic disorder marked by an abnormally high RBC count. Now, researchers have identified a surprising player in the regulation of RBC production under these disease conditions. Reporting online today in Nature Medicine, two independent teams describe the pivotal role of macrophages—amoeba-like white blood cells responsible for digesting harmful foreign microbes and removing old or dying cells—for generating RBCs in both anemic and over-proliferative conditions. 

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