Neutrophil and Eosinophil Phenome Wide Association study
Neutrophils and eosinophils belong to a family of immune cells called granulocytes. Neutrophils are very abundant, accounting for 50-70% of all white blood cells; they carry many antimicrobial and inflammatory molecules that are mobilized against invading pathogens. Eosinophils are less abundant but equally potent against parasites. The inflammatory cargo carried by granulocytes, which is efficient at killing bacteria, can also damage host tissues if granulocyte responses are misdirected. This occurs in inflammatory diseases such as autoimmunity but also in cancer and cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, neutrophils also produce molecules that are thought to assist with wound healing and tissue repair and these can have beneficial effects in certain diseases. We do not currently fully understand in which instances granulocytes have protective functions, and in which they are damaging. Circulating blood counts vary among individuals in the population and this is partly due to genetics.
We will use granulocyte counts from the UK Biobank to examine the relationship between the abundance of these cells and disease risk for a variety of different diseases monitored in this cohort. We will use a hypothesis-free approach and so will test a large set of outcomes. This analysis is expected to last for 1-2 years. We hope that by identifying causal relationships between granulocyte abundance and specific diseases, we can propose new approaches for treating those disorders.