Scientists have discovered a process that could be the key to stopping damage caused by uncontrolled inflammation in a range of common diseases including liver disease, Alzheimer's and gout.
The researchers at University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia have uncovered how an inflammation process automatically switches off in healthy cells, and are now investigating ways to stop it manually when it goes awry.
She focused on inflammasomes, which are machine-like protein complexes at the heart of inflammation and disease.
"These complexes form when an infection, injury or other disturbance is detected by the immune system, and they send messages to immune cells to tell them to respond," Schroder said.
"If the disturbance can not be cleared, such as in the case of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's, these molecular machines continue to fire, resulting in neurodegenerative damage from the sustained inflammation," she said.
The team, led by Dave Boucher, discovered that inflammasomes normally work with an in-built timer switch, to ensure they only fire for a specific length of time once triggered.
"The inflammasome initiates the inflammation process by activating a protein that functions like a pair of scissors, and cuts itself and other proteins," Schroder said.
"What we have found is that after a period of time this protein cuts itself a second time to turn off the pathway, so if we can tweak this system we may be able to turn it off manually in disease," she said.
Schroders laboratory has begun studying the inflammasome in fatty liver disease, a rapidly growing health issue due to the increasing global incidence of obesity and diabetes.
Compounds to block inflammasome have been developed by researchers including Schroder, and are being commercialised by start-up drug development company Inflazome Ltd, researchers said.
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