New way to halt excessive inflammation is discovered

Scientists have found a new way to “put the brakes” on excessive inflammation by regulating a type of white blood cell that is critical for the immune system.

The discovery – published in Nature Communications – has the potential to protect the body from unchecked damage caused by inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

When immune cells (white blood cells) called macrophages are exposed to potent infectious agents, powerful inflammatory proteins (cytokines) are produced to fight the invading infection. But if these cytokine levels get out of control, significant tissue damage can occur.

Scientists have now found that a protein called Arginase-2 works through the energy source of macrophage cells (mitochondria), to limit inflammation. They have shown for the first time that Arginase-2 is critical for decreasing a potent inflammatory cytokine called IL-1.

“Excessive inflammation is a prominent feature of many diseases such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases,” comments Dr Claire McCoy, the senior author. “Through our discovery, we may be able to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory disease and ultimately improve the quality of life for people with these conditions.”

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