BHF-funded research identifies new way to prevent chronic inflammation

20 April 2015        

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New research, which we part-funded, has identified a mechanism by which inflammation is regulated and which appears to be important in development of chronic conditions like type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

The immune system is responsible for the body’s response to wounds or infection to protect against disease. It is important that once the initial problem has been resolved, the immune system does not stay active as this could damage the patient’s own healthy tissues.

This can lead to chronic inflammation and the development of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have discovered that a key molecule helps manage the body’s response to injury by restricting the movement of immune cells from the blood into the tissue, preventing the injured area becoming chronically inflamed.

However, the protective effect of this molecule was reduced in patients with type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and as we age.

The study, published in Nature Medicine, showed that adding the molecule to immune cells from patients with type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, could regain control of the movement of these immune cells.

Professor Peter Weissberg, our Medical Director, said: “This is a beautiful piece of research that appears to have identified a new way to regulate chronic inflammation. It helps to explain why autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis become more common with age.

“It remains to be seen whether these findings will have any direct relevance to cardiovascular disease. However, coronary heart disease tends to be more common in people with chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, so if this research leads to better treatments for these conditions, it might be expected that this will lead to fewer heart attacks in these patients.”

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