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Trends Cell Biol. 2005 Apr;15(4):188-93.

Macrophage fusion: are somatic and cancer cells possible partners?

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, Dept of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, TMP534, 310 Cedar Street, New Haven CT 06510, USA.


Macrophages are present in all tissues and can fuse with themselves to differentiate into multinucleate osteoclasts or giant cells that play a central role in osteoporosis and chronic inflammatory diseases, respectively. Yet, the mechanism by which they fuse remains uncharacterized. The macrophage fusion receptor (MFR) and its ligand CD47 might mediate homotypic fusion of macrophages and allow for their recognition as 'self' before fusion. Although a novel process and controversial idea, macrophages might exploit a similar mechanism for fusion with somatic cells or tumor cells, with resultant organ repair or metastasis, respectively. Hence, macrophages might be the 'double-edged swords' of tissues.

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