NOV 24, 2016 09:35 AM PST

Controlling Chronic Inflammation with UV Light to Quell Disease Symptoms

Chronic inflammation can be a contributory factor in many leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It can also be a primary cause of several severe diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and Crohn's disease. Researchers at Cornell University have created a chemical tool that can control inflammation in targeted tissues, which could change the process for treating chronic inflammation without harming healthy tissue.
Examples of diseases in which chronic inflammation plays a primary role (Dr. Judi Moore)
The group led by Pamela Chang, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, and Bibudha Parasar, a graduate student in Chang's lab, worked to find a way to inhibit certain enzyme pathways that are known to activate the inflammation reaction using UV light. The study, published in Chemical Science, could also open up new approaches to learning more about the immune system and how we can modulate other inflammation pathways.
 
"We are pushing the forefront of developing new technologies to control inflammation and the immune system, with the ultimate goal of being able to study these biological pathways and perhaps develop therapies for inflammatory diseases," Chang said.

The immune system is controlled by inflammatory molecules produced by immune cells such as macrophages and dendritic cells. These molecules in turn are regulated by enzymes such as histone deacetylases (HDACs) that activate and deactivate related genes to promote inflammation. The team identified inhibitors of the HDACs that suppress the inflammatory response and created a probe to specifically activate these inhibitors, but only in the presence of UV light.
 
An HDAC inhibitor molecule was synthesized with an attached photolabile protecting group, essentially a chemical release mechanism that is cleaved upon UV light activation which then releases and activates the attached molecule. The HDAC inhibitor can then enter an activated macrophage cell and inhibit inflammatory processes to reduce inflammation.
The HDAC inhibition reaction (Parasar and Chang, 2016)
The UV light activation allows the chemical probe to be targeted to specific tissues. This is important because HDACs are used as regulators for other pathways in addition to inflammation regulation. If all HDACs were inhibited, there would be damage to tissues caused by inhibition of unrelated pathways in cells. By developing a system where UV light is used to target only specific areas of chronic inflammation, inflammatory diseases can be treated effectively without harming healthy tissue.

"If you turned off all the HDACs in the body, you would probably be hitting a lot of pathways that you didn't want to turn off," said Chang. "We can control when and where we turn off the HDACs using light. The idea is that you can actually target the tissue that has chronic inflammation and regulate it by selectively inhibiting HDACs in the tissue that's affected."

Sources: Royal Society of Chemistry, phys.org, MedicalXpress
About the Author
  • I love all things science and am passionate about bringing science to the public through writing. With an M.S. in Genetics and experience in cancer research, marketing and technical writing, it is a pleasure to share the latest trends and findings in science on LabRoots.
You May Also Like
JUN 26, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 26, 2018
Researchers Redefine Size Limits for Neutron Stars
Neutrons stars are unimaginably dense, and perhaps even the densest-known objects in the entire universe. They can be as small as a city and contain just a...
JUL 13, 2018
Technology
JUL 13, 2018
Thermal Camouflage is Here
You Can Now Become Invisible to Thermal Imaging...
AUG 09, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
AUG 09, 2018
How a Ham Sandwich Helps You Understand Mathematics (and the Universe)
Mathematics is an abstract method to describe topics such as quantity, structure, and even space, which sometimes presents quite an obstacle for everyday f...
AUG 15, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 15, 2018
Are Ion-Powered Rockets the Way of the Future for Space Exploration?
While chemical burn rockets are the industry standard for launching spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere, the bigger question concerns how we should...
AUG 20, 2018
Videos
AUG 20, 2018
When Will Humankind Make the Switch to Fusion Power?
  As we look toward the future for cleaner and more efficient means of producing power, fusion looks to be one of the most promising candidates. Fusio...
SEP 05, 2018
Neuroscience
SEP 05, 2018
New Research on How the Brain Learns
Understanding how the brain learns is a complex undertaking. There are billions of neurons in the mind that signal each other furiously every day. Memories...
Loading Comments...