MAR 29, 2018 07:42 AM PDT

An Off Switch for Inflammation?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Regulating inflammation is vital for controlling various autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Inflammation is important as a response to pathogenic invasions, but when inflammation goes overboard or occurs without reason, it can cause severe damage. Scientists from Trinity College Dublin now introduce a way to turn inflammation “off.”

Credit: A macrophage of a mouse forming two processes to phagocytize two smaller particles, possibly pathogens.

A metabolite of glucose, called itaconate, is able to “switch off” macrophage activity, scientists found. This finding comes from a research group that has been studying macrophages for six years; it is believed to be the most important finding to date, with the potential to treat inflammatory diseases like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and heart disease.

Macrophages are immune cells that identify, engulf, and destroy foreign particles through a process called phagocytosis. Macrophages also act as antigen-presenting cells, which means they take pieces of foreign particles and bring them to the attention of T cells, another important player in the immune system, which can initiate inflammation if the antigen is deemed to be indicative of a looming infection.

"It is well known that macrophages cause inflammation, but we have just found that they can be coaxed to make a biochemical called itaconate,” explained study leader Luke O’Neill. “This functions as an important brake, or off-switch, on the macrophage, cooling the heat of inflammation in a process never before described."

According to a 2016 Cell Metabolism study, itaconate is one of the most highly induced metabolites in activated macrophages, and it is involved in the regulation of important cellular functions as well as cytokine production. Cytokines are chemical messengers of the immune system that can, for example, tell immune cells to turn inflammation on or off.

How does it work? Macrophages transform glucose into itaconate, which blocks the production of inflammatory factors and prevents lethal inflammation that occurs during infection. Itaconate can directly alter several proteins involved in the inflammatory process in a novel chemical reaction.

Going forward, researchers ask: how is the relationship between macrophages, itaconate, and inflammation related to the onset and development of disease? How can this relationship be applied to the development of new anti-inflammatory drugs?

The present study was published in the journal Nature.

Sources: British Society for Immunology, Trinity College Dublin

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 15, 2018
Immunology
JUL 15, 2018
Enzyme Pathway Mediates Immune Response to Chagas Disease
The enzyme, PI3Kγ, regulates the immune response to T. cruzi, the cause of Chagas Disease. Manipulation of this enzyme may lead to better treatment of T. cruzi....
JUL 22, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 22, 2018
Using Nanosubmarines to Fight Tumors and Headaches
Researchers are getting closer to creating targeted therapies that are delivered directly where needed....
JUL 28, 2018
Immunology
JUL 28, 2018
IgM Antibody Protects against HIV-1 Infection
The antibody IgM is shown to be provide protection against HIV infection in rhesus monkeys up to 82 days past exposure to HIV....
AUG 22, 2018
Immunology
AUG 22, 2018
Immune Response Runs on the Body Clock
Immune cell functions such as inflammation are dictated by your bodies circadian rhythm, responding daily to external stimuli on a 24 hour schedule....
SEP 26, 2018
Videos
SEP 26, 2018
Cancer Immunotherapy
Video illustration about how tumor cells are sensed and destroyed by the immune system and how tumors evolve and detect immune-mediated eliminations, as well as iimmunotherapies associated....
OCT 21, 2018
Immunology
OCT 21, 2018
B -cells Drive auto-T-cells to the Brain
Researchers have provided a paradigm shift in the understanding of auto-reactive T cells in the brain of Multiple Sclerosis patients....
Loading Comments...