Immune cells can be altered to help fight inflammatory diseases, research finds

(Medical Xpress)—A fundamental mechanism controlling cells of the human immune system could be key to helping fight inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, new research at the University of Dundee has found.

The research by Dr Kris Clark, in the Medical Research Council Unit (MRC-PPU) at Dundee, concentrated on the activity of macrophages, which are cells of the immune system that defend the body against infection by bacteria and viruses.

Dr Clark found that an enzyme called SIK is active in suppressing the production of anti-inflammatory molecules. By 'switching off' the function of SIK within the cell, he was able to greatly enhance the production of beneficial anti-inflammatory molecules.

The research suggests that drugs that switch off SIK may improve current therapies for treating inflammatory diseases, such as and psoriasis.

"These are very exciting times for our research," said Dr Clark. "This discovery represents the first link between SIK and inflammation. My immediate future goal is to characterize in more detail the roles that SIK plays in the immune system and how they are affected by compounds that switch off this enzyme."

The research has been published in the .

Macrophages are cells of the immune system that defend the body against infection by bacteria and viruses. However, once these invading pathogens have been destroyed, the inflammatory responses triggered by macrophages have to be stopped, to avoid the development of .

Macrophages also play key roles in terminating the by switching on the production of so-called anti-inflammatory molecules.

Kris discovered that the production of anti-inflammatory molecules by is prevented by an enzyme called SIK and that, by turning off the function of SIK within the cell, he was able to greatly enhance the production of beneficial anti-inflammatory molecules while stopping the production of the molecules that cause inflammation.

Working with the Drug Discovery Unit at Dundee, Dr Clark has now started to develop molecules which could provide the basis for drugs to turn off SIK.

"My studies have greatly benefitted from working in the multi-disciplinary and collegial environment that has been built up in the MRC Unit, the Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling and the College of Life Sciences at Dundee," said Dr Clark. "My interactions with the scientists who work here and the advice they have given me has not only been invaluable for this project, but also most enjoyable."

Related Stories

Scientists shine new light on inflammatory diseases

Mar 16, 2008

Investigators at Hospital for Special Surgery have identified a new mechanism involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The mechanism may also shed some light on why gene therapy ...

Recommended for you

Ontario has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world

Aug 28, 2014

One in every 200 Ontarians has been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with the number of people living with the disease increasing by 64 per cent between 1999 and 2008, according to a study by researchers at ...

New drug promises relief for inflammatory pain

Aug 27, 2014

Pain from inflammation sidelines thousands of Americans each year. Many face a tough choice: deal with the pain, take a potentially addictive opioid or use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that may increase risk for ...

Overweight causes hazardous inflammations

Aug 25, 2014

Researchers have found a possible molecular explanation for why overweight is harmful. This new knowledge may provide new drugs for heart attack, stroke, cancer and chronic intestinal inflammation.

Asthma outcomes worse in older women

Aug 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Older women face increased challenges in managing their asthma, according to a review published in the August issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

User comments