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Immune cells called monocytes have long been implicated in the killing of invading bacteria. However, a closer look reveals a surprising role for them: monocytes partner with a hormone to improve skin healing after bacterial infection.
Production of the hormone ghrelin from stomach cells stimulates hunger1, whereas the hormone leptin, which is released from fat cells called adipocytes, acts on the hypothalamus in the brain to inhibit food intake2. A loss of appetite is the most common symptom associated with the fever and inflammation that are induced by infection3. To coordinate a successful response to infection and to ultimately restore normal function, the body’s immune, metabolic and nervous systems need to communicate by means of receptors, signalling molecules called cytokines, and hormones4. What are the specific restorative signals that dictate tissue healing and repair after infection? Writing in Nature, Kratofil et al.5 report a previously unsuspected connection between hormones and immune cells during healing.