A hidden residential cell in the lung

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Eosinophils are classically known as proinflammatory cells, as they are equipped with a variety of preformed cytotoxic mediators and have been shown to definitively contribute to asthma. The connection between eosinophils and asthma development has led to a new class of asthma therapeutics based on blocking eosinophils with humanized antibodies that neutralize IL-5, a potent eosinophil growth, activation, and survival factor. Yet, recent studies have led to an increasing appreciation that eosinophils have a variety of homeostatic functions, including immunomodulation. In this issue of the JCI, Mesnil et al. identify a notable population of lung-resident eosinophils and demonstrate that, compared with traditional eosinophils, these cells have distinct characteristics, including nuclear structure, surface markers, IL-5 independence, and immunoregulatory function that is capable of polarizing adaptive immune responses, at least in vitro. Thus, these results reinforce a key homeostatic role for this enigmatic cell population, particularly in residing and regulating immunity in the lung.

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