Scientists have discovered a new protein "switch" that could prevent the progression of sepsis or blood-poisoning.
Sepsis is an inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's response to infection causes it to injure its own tissues and organs. It is very hard to diagnose. Currently, infection control and organ-function support are the only methods of managing the disease. Close to 14 million die from the life-threatening disease annually.
Researchers made the new discovery while studying a protein called ABCF1. "Sepsis triggers an uncontrolled chain-reaction of inflammation in the body, leading to tissue damage, organ failure, and death," Hitesh Arora, co-lead author of the study who conducted this research as a PhD student at the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC, told a news portal. Adding, "We have discovered that the enzyme ABCF1 acts as a 'switch' at the molecular level that can stop this inflammatory chain-reaction and dampen the potential damage."
Sepsis occurs in two phases. Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), the first phase, sees a significant increase in immune cells like macrophages, which is a type of white blood cells. This cause inflammation and reduces the number of anti-inflammatory cells. This results in chemical imbalances in the blood, as well as organ and tissue damage. The second phase is called the endotoxtin tolerance (ET) phase. In this phase, recovery begins. The team found ABCF1 acts as a "switch" in sepsis and can regulate the first phase. Not having the ABCF1 switch, can cause severe tissue damage and could even result in death.
The findings could lead to the development of better treatments for acute inflammatory diseases. "Our study may lead to therapies that overcome inflammatory and auto immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis," senior author Wilfred Jefferies, a professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories and departments of medical genetics and microbiology and immunology at UBC, told a news portal.
The study was published recently in journal Immunity.