To be healthy, people need an effective immune response, otherwise, they 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.
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.
A recent study at the University of Liverpool and elsewhere found the potential benefits of new drug treatment on the human body’s immune response in inflammation.
The study is published in Inflammopharmacology. One author is rheumatologist Professor Robert Moots.
In the study, the team focused on neutrophils, the most abundant immune cells in the blood.
The cells are rapidly dispatched to sites of infection, where they fulfill their life-saving antimicrobial functions by destroying infectious organisms and producing signaling 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, the team found 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, the impact of the drug on neutrophils has been examined and published.
The team 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 but even, potentially, in COVID-19.
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