Scientists find new effective treatment for inflammatory diseases

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In a new study, researchers found the potential benefits of new drug treatment on the human body’s immune response in inflammation.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Liverpool and elsewhere.

In a number of inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and, more recently, COVID-19, major complications and extensive tissue damage can occur when the immune system becomes excessively and uncontrollably activated.

Finding new ways to selectively control this over-activity could have major clinical benefits.

To be healthy, we need an effective immune response, otherwise, we would succumb to overwhelming infection, even by everyday bacteria.

However, sometimes our immune system can become hyperactive and cause damage through inflammation, even in the absence of any infection.

This can sometimes be extreme. Indeed, many rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are caused by inflammation.

The quest has always been to find ways to selectively block the harmful effects of an overactive immune system, without paying the price of blocking our ability to fight infections.

Neutrophils are the most abundant immune cells in our blood.

They are rapidly dispatched to sites of infection, where they fulfil their life-saving antimicrobial functions by destroying infectious organisms and producing signalling proteins called cytokines, that help co-ordinate the recruitment and activity of other immune system cells to the battle against the infection.

There is much evidence to show that these cells are important players behind many rheumatic diseases.

In some situations, if the levels of cytokines are too high, they can trigger an extreme inflammatory reaction called a cytokine storm.

These storms cause overwhelming inflammation that leads to blocked or ruptured blood vessels. This can affect the entire circulatory system.

Cytokine storms can cause immense damage, multiple organ failure, sepsis, and even death and, appear to play a major role in severe COVID-19 disease.

In the study, APPA is a novel drug under development for use in osteoarthritis, a major disabling problem world-wide that is caused by low-grade inflammation.

The first part of its formal clinical evaluation in Liverpool has recently been successfully completed.

Now, in partnership between Liverpool and AKLRD, the impact of the drug on neutrophils has been examined and published.

The study found that APPA clearly demonstrated anti-inflammatory potential but without weakening host defense to infection.

The team showed that APPA has the potential to dampen down that bad inflammation that causes rheumatic diseases—but not impact the crucial antimicrobial function of neutrophils.

The results suggest a prime role for APPA in helping safely modify aggressive immune response, not only in arthritis that I treat every day but even, potentially, in COVID-19.

One author of the study is rheumatologist Professor Robert Moots.

The study is published in Inflammopharmacology.

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