In a new study, researchers discovered a new way to ‘put the brakes’ on excessive inflammation by regulating a type of white blood cell that is critical for our immune system.
The discovery has the potential to protect the body from unchecked damage caused by inflammatory diseases.
The research was conducted by a team at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and elsewhere.
When immune cells (white blood cells) in our body called macrophages are exposed to potentially infectious agents, powerful inflammatory proteins known as cytokines are produced to fight the invading infection.
However, if these cytokine levels get out of control, significant tissue damage can occur.
In the study, the team found that a protein called Arginase-2 works through the energy source of macrophage cells, known as mitochondria, to limit inflammation.
Specifically, they found for the first time that Arginase-2 is critical for decreasing a potent inflammatory cytokine called IL-1.
This discovery could allow researchers to develop new treatments that target the Arginase-2 protein and protect the body from unchecked damage caused by inflammatory diseases.
The team says excessive inflammation is a prominent feature of many diseases such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Through the discovery, scientists may be able to develop novel treatments of inflammatory disease and ultimately improve the quality of life for people with these conditions.
The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, with the initial stages of the research originating from a grant from the National Health Medical Research Council, Australia.
One author of the study is Dr. Claire McCoy, Senior Lecturer in Immunology.
The study is published in Nature Communications.
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