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Study Shows that Protein May Slow Emphysema

122008image002A protein generated as part of our body's immune response to intestinal worms could slow the progression of emphysema, Rutgers University found in a recent study, which was published in the journal Cell Reports.

Past studies have shown that inflammation associated with activated immune cells can contribute to the development of emphysema. The Rutgers study suggests that a protein, RELM-alpha, produced in response to an infection with parasitic worms can suppress the harmful inflammation linked to emphysema and control its progression.

"When the parasite first enters the lungs, it induces production of the inflammatory cytokine IL-17, which can cause emphysema," said William Gause, director of the Center for Immunity and Inflammation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and lead author of the study. "But subsequently the parasite also triggers this specific component of the immune response that can reduce the IL-17 and thereby limit the severity of the emphysema."

Gause said the study is one of many currently examining the immune responses triggered by parasites, which scientists hope will help them identify new treatments to control inflammation and promote lung tissue repair. Studies such as these are looking to identify molecules that may hold potential for actually reducing lung tissue damage.

Future studies, he said, will continue examining whether or not direct administration of this molecule can reduce the severity of emphysema, as well as how harmful inflammation driven by IL-17 results in the immune-mediated tissue damage that contributes to this lung disorder.

"Harmful inflammation is such a serious problem in disease," Gause said. "This protein produced by immune cells during parasitic worm infections reveals the complexity of the immune response and indicates how we can unleash beneficial components of our own immune system to control the harmful inflammation that contributes to many chronic diseases."

Click here to read the whole article on Medical Xpress.