Enzyme Halts Runaway Inflammation

Could be model for drugs that fight wide range of illnesses

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MONDAY, Aug. 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- An enzyme called A20 that can slow out-of-control inflammation has been identified by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

This enzyme, which is found in nearly all human cells, could offer a target for the development of new drugs to treat a range of inflammatory diseases that result when the body's immune system overreacts to bacterial invasion.

The researchers found that A20 prevents immune system overreaction to sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection in which bacteria invade the bloodstream. If A20 fails to limit that response, the immune system's overreaction can result in a deadly collapse of blood pressure.

The enzyme may also play a part in immune system dysfunction linked to inflammatory bowel disease, the researchers said. And it might play key roles in arthritis, type 1 diabetes and atherosclerosis, as well.

The findings appear in the Aug. 29 issue of Nature Immunology.

"Finding one enzyme that can rein in two potent pathways of inflammation increases the potential benefits of developing drugs to enhance or restore A20's effectiveness," senior author Dr. Averil Ma, the Rainin Distinguished Professor of Medicine, said in a prepared statement. "A drug that mimicked A20's sundry functions could be extraordinarily useful."

More information

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has more about your immune system.

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, Aug. 29, 2004

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