MAR 29, 2018 7:42 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
MAR 09, 2020
Immunology
MAR 09, 2020
Mobilizing the brain's immune cells boosts memory
A study by researchers at Australia’s RMIT University has uncovered a surprising connection between immune cells i ...
MAR 23, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 23, 2020
Is Fast-Tracking Vaccines for Coronavirus Really Such a Good Idea?
Donald Trump has called on researchers to “slash red tape like nobody has even done it before” to accelerate ...
MAR 16, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 16, 2020
Critical Interleukin Leads to Drug Discovery
The immune molecule interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a growth factor that stimulates the immune system to produce T-cells. Their ...
APR 17, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
APR 17, 2020
Gilead's Remdesivir Trial Sees Rapid Recoveries from COVID-19
Early results from a Chicago hospital treating patients with Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir for severe ...
APR 22, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
APR 22, 2020
Only 3% of COVID-19 Antibody Tests Approved by FDA
So far, only 3% of at least 90 COVID-19 antibody tests in the US have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration ...
APR 21, 2020
Health & Medicine
APR 21, 2020
How to Read COVID-19 News (Without Going Crazy)
  It can feel like COVID-19 news is consuming the country, and taking all the toilet paper and N95-masks with it. N ...
Loading Comments...