Image of the Day: White Blood Cell Webs

Neutrophil extracellular traps may hold clues to the cause of skin lesions in patients with a painful condition called hidradenitis suppurativa.

Emily Makowski
Sep 5, 2019
Lesions of patients with HS (upper right and two lower panels) had more neutrophil extracellular traps (pink) created by neutrophils (blue) than a control sample (top left) did.
A.S. BYRD ET AL. (2019)

Hidradenitis suppurativa, also known as acne inversa, is a painful and incurable skin condition where hair follicles become inflamed, causing the formation of boils and nodules underneath the skin that can break open on the skin’s surface. As it’s thought to be more common among African Americans, Angel Byrd, a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues examined HS lesions from 16 African-American patients and found neutrophil extracellular traps, webs of white blood cell innards that are found in patients with autoimmune diseases. 

The webs were more prominent with increasing disease severity. Additionally, blood samples showed B cell dysregulation and other signs of immune system activation. These results, published in Science Translational Medicine today (September 4), suggest that multiple immune system activities could be causing the tissue damage found in patients with HS.

A.S. Byrd et al., “Neutrophil extracellular traps, B cells, and type 1 interferons contribute to immune dysregulation in hidradenitis suppurativa,” doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aav5908, Sci Transl Med, 2019.

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at