Nav: Home

Discovery reveals way to stop inflammation in Alzheimer's, arthritis, more

February 26, 2018

A new discovery about the immune system may allow doctors to treat harmful inflammation that damages the brain in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. It might also let doctors save patients from the potentially deadly inflammation of sepsis, a full-body infection that kills a quarter-million Americans every year.

The finding "opens up a whole new research area to look at neuroinflammation in the context of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," said lead researcher Bimal Desai, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "But the clinical impact will be in many, many different areas."

Neurological Treatments

Traditional treatments for neurological inflammation, such as in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, are largely ineffective because biological drugs are blocked by what is known as the blood-brain barrier. That barrier protects the brain from dangers such as bacteria or toxins in the blood, but it also makes it very difficult to get drugs into the brain. "A lot of the drugs we use right now to treat inflammation, [known as] biologicals, don't work in the brain because they can't get through," explained Desai, of UVA's Department of Pharmacology and UVA's Carter Immunology Center.

His new finding, involving important immune cells known as macrophages (and microglia), could offer a way around that. He and his team have identified a specific electrical switch, known as an ion channel, within macrophages that controls the flow of calcium into the cells. Without calcium, the cells can't cause inflammation. By targeting this switch with tiny molecules, researchers could deny the macrophages calcium and prevent inflammation - even in the brain.

A Better Way to Battle Inflammation

That could let researchers develop a new and better way to stop inflammation. "Small molecules are perhaps more affordable as treatments and can hit things like this ion channel switch, TRPM7," said researcher Michael Schappe, a graduate student in Desai's lab. "We could use that to address inflammation in a bunch of contexts, but particularly in instances like neuroinflammation, where [current] treatments are particularly ineffective."

Desai noted that drug companies are already at work on drugs that could target this type of switch. And that could be good news for patients with many inflammatory diseases. "Right now, you have conditions like arthritis or IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], where inflammation plays a huge role. They do have very good drugs for them, but these drugs are extremely expensive and cannot be taken orally by the patients. They can cost as much as $20,000 a year," he said. "The reason for that is that they're biologicals. They're protein molecules that are very difficult to make and distribute. But having identified an ion channel as a target in this context allows you to use small molecules, which are ridiculously cheap compared to biologicals and can be taken orally by the patients."

The discovery of the new drug target, the researchers noted, was made possible by something very unusual about UVA. To learn more, visit the Making of Medicine blog at https://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu/2018/02/26/the-switch-that-could-shut-down-inflammation-even-in-the-brain/
-end-
Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific journal Immunity. The study's authors were Schappe, Kalina Szteyn, Marta E. Stremska, Suresh K. Mendu, Taylor K. Downs, Philip V. Seegren, Michelle A. Mahoney, Sumeet Dixit, Julia K. Krupa, Eric J. Stipes, Jason S. Rogers, Samantha E. Adamson, Norbert Leitinger and Desai.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grants GM108989 and 5T32GM007055-41.

University of Virginia Health System

Related Immune System Articles:

Using the immune system as a defence against cancer
Research published today in the British Journal of Cancer has found that a naturally occurring molecule and a component of the immune system that can successfully target and kill cancer cells, can also encourage immunity against cancer resurgence.
First impressions go a long way in the immune system
An algorithm that predicts the immune response to a pathogen could lead to early diagnosis for such diseases as tuberculosis
Filming how our immune system kill bacteria
To kill bacteria in the blood, our immune system relies on nanomachines that can open deadly holes in their targets.
Putting the break on our immune system's response
Researchers have discovered how a tiny molecule known as miR-132 acts as a 'handbrake' on our immune system -- helping us fight infection.
Decoding the human immune system
For the first time ever, researchers are comprehensively sequencing the human immune system, which is billions of times larger than the human genome.
Masterswitch discovered in body's immune system
Scientists have discovered a critical part of the body's immune system with potentially major implications for the treatment of some of the most devastating diseases affecting humans.
How a fungus can cripple the immune system
An international research team led by Professor Oliver Werz of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has now discovered how the fungus knocks out the immune defenses, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop.
How the immune system protects us against bowel cancer
Researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have discovered a protective mechanism which is used by the body to protect intestinal stem cells from turning cancerous.
How herpesviruses shape the immune system
DZIF scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed an analytic method that can very precisely detect viral infections using immune responses.
The immune system's fountain of youth
Helping the immune system clear away old cells in aging mice helped restore youthful characteristics.
More Immune System News and Immune System Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.