Scientists find new drug to combat inflammatory diseases

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In a new study, researchers found a drug-like compound that blocks a crucial inflammatory pathway, potentially paving the way for a new treatment for a host of diseases—including COVID-19.

They discovered the compound could prevent up-regulation of CD14, a key inflammatory protein.

Inflammation is our body’s natural reaction to infection. In the beginning, it helps you fight the infection—but too much inflammation is linked to a range of chronic and acute diseases.

In a viral disease such as COVID-19, some patients experience excessive inflammation—called a cytokine storm—which can lead to hospitalization or death.

Blocking the CD14 pathway can reduce the severity of many diseases, and potentially save lives.

The team focussed their research on a protein called CD14, which is found on certain inflammatory immune cells called macrophages.

According to the team, CD14’s job is to detect infection, helping to drive inflammation to clear a pathogen.

But the amount of CD14 increases on macrophages as inflammation progresses, potentially getting out of control, which could lead to worse outcomes for infections or other diseases.

In the study, the team used CRISPR technology to search for genes that help CD14 levels to rise.

They found many really interesting genes that were critical—and when they turned these genes off, they could prevent CD14-driven inflammation from overwhelming the body.

Excitingly, a drug-like inhibitor blocks the protein produced by one of these genes.

They found this compound could block the rise in CD14 and consequent inflammation in the laboratory, which is incredibly promising.

The team says the discovery of a potential anti-inflammatory compound opened the doors for new anti-inflammatory therapies.

If this compound could be developed into a safe and effective drug, it could potentially assist in the treatment of many inflammatory diseases.

However, once available, the drug would only be beneficial for curbing severe inflammation.

Inflammation is a critical process for fighting many infectious, so people only need to use an anti-inflammatory drug for the most severe and life-threatening forms of inflammation.

One author of the study is Associate Professor Seth Masters.

The study is published in EBioMedicine.

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