It is well known that a continuous cycle of inflammation can lead to continued decline in lung function, making it increasingly difficult for emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) sufferers to breathe or take part in routine activities. However, a new discovery by University of Newcastle and University of Bonn respiratory researchers may change the way inflammation affects these conditions.
Published in the international journal Nature Immunology, this discovery sheds new light on an immunological factor known as the “inflammasome,” which has the ability to “inhibit inflammatory conditions at their genesis.”
Lead researcher Professor Phil Hansbro of University of Newcastle describes inflammasomes as “a recently discovered complex of proteins that form once a cell is exposed to a pathogen such as a virus or bacterial infection. They trigger the release of a load of inflammatory proteins.”
He explains that inflammasomes are “normally beneficial in response to infection but can become abnormally activated and may lead to chronic respiratory diseases” such as emphysema and COPD.
Hansboro and other researchers are finding that people may have an “overactive baseline inflammatory response” which releases inflammasomes to areas of the body that do not need them in an effort to fight off bacteria and infection. Hansboro explains that this drive a “continual cycle of inflammation…it becomes exaggerated and uncontrollable, which could underpin why we get asthma attacks or COPD exacerbations for example.”
This breakthrough finding is helping to spur the development of drugs and inhibitors that target inflammasomes and restore the perpetual inflammatory response to normal, limiting inflammatory disease development.