A newly-discovered molecule holds great potential for treating inflammation, researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research (FIMR) explain. They say that their latest study on the issue revealed the existence of a molecule that would make an excellent target for next-generation drugs.
What the research also reveals is that inflammation appears to be treated completely when this particular molecule – known as the double-stranded RNA dependent protein kinase (PKR) – is targeted.
While the team acknowledges the positive effects of normal inflammation, they say that, in many cases, the process goes wrong, or gets entirely out of control. Inflammation-reducing treatments are meant for those cases, not for when swelling occurs as a result of a normal immune response to an outside attack.
When not properly controlled by the body, the phenomenon can favor the development of conditions such as arthritis, colitis and sepsis, which are extremely dangerous. Additional details of the work were just published in the July issue of the top scientific journal Nature.
“Inflammation is necessary for maintaining good health, but when unchecked, it can play a part in a wide array of human diseases,” explains expert Scott Somers, PhD, a US National Institute of Health (NIH) expert overseeing the allocation of inflammation research grants.
“By identifying a protein that controls a single aspect of inflammation, this work offers a new way to target the harmful effects of chronic inflammation while preserving the body's overall protective mechanisms,” he goes on to say, quoted by EurekAlert
While normal inflammation contributes extensively to helping the immune system prevent infections, and also to healing wounds, it can also harm cells, tissues and organs, if it goes on for long enough, and without a real enemy to fight.
What the FIMR team discovered was that PKR plays an important role in activating the inflammasome protein complex, which in turn is essential for activating the cascade of processes that lead to inflammation. Therefore, targeting PKR provides a way to control inflammation.
“We are particularly interested in this discovery because it provides a new way to make novel drugs to treat obesity, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis and a host of other diseases,” explains FIMR president and lead study investigators, Kevin J. Tracey, MD.