Monday, January 31, 2011

'Master Switch' Found For Inflammatory Diseases, January 2011:

Scientists have discovered a protein that acts like a “master switch” determining whether white blood cells will boost or dampen inflammation, a discovery that could help researchers find new drugs, or possibly even a cure, for rheumatoid arthritis.

Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis are treated with a class of medications called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors made by a number of drug companies including Abbott Laboratories, Merck, Pfizer and Amgen.

But as many as 30 percent of those patients do not respond well to anti-TNF drugs, so experts say it is imperative to develop more widely effective treatment options for the debilitating condition.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Immunology on Sunday, scientists from Imperial College London found that the protein IRF5 acts as a molecular switch that controls whether white blood cells -- known as macrophages -- will promote or inhibit inflammation.

The scientists said the results suggest that blocking the production of IRF5 in macrophages could prove to be a valuable way of treating a wide range of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and multiple sclerosis.

They also suggest that boosting IRF5 levels could help treat people whose immune systems are compromised or damaged. Read more>>

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