Researchers Probe Mechanisms of Infection

Study sheds light on link between inflammation and disease

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FRIDAY, Aug. 11, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. research offers new insight into chemical links between chronic inflammation and diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis.

When an infection occurs, immune cells gather at the site of the infection and secrete large amounts of special chemicals in order to fight off invaders, note researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Mass.

However, these inflammatory chemicals also harm normal cells around the site of the infection. Damage caused to the DNA of the cells can cause cell death or mutations that lead to cancer and other diseases.

The MIT team discovered that the DNA damage caused by one of the inflammatory chemicals produced by immune cells -- nitrosoperoxycarbonate -- occurs at unexpected locations along the DNA helix.

This study results challenge the current theory about where DNA damage occurs and may lead to new ways to diagnose and treat inflammation, the researchers said.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

"We need to understand the mechanisms of inflammation in order to make new drugs that will break the link between inflammation and disease and to develop predictive biomarkers," Dr. Peter Dedon, professor of toxicology and biological engineering, and associate director of MIT's Biological Engineering Division, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about immune response.

SOURCE: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, news release, July 2006

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