Cell mechanism causing inflammatory disease unlocked
14 March 2012
The mystery of how an inflammatory molecule is produced in the
body has been discovered by researchers at Cedars Sinai Medical Center
in the US.
The discovery could lead to advances in the treatment of rheumatoid
arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and numerous other chronic diseases that
affect tens of millions of people.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is
published online by the peer-reviewed journal Immunity and
will appear in the March print edition.
The researchers identified for the first time the mechanism that
leads to the production of the molecule interleukin-1beta. It is a
major contributor to inflammation, which lies at the root of many
serious health conditions, including atherosclerotic heart disease
and some types of strokes.
Potential for new treatments
Current drug therapies seek to block this molecule’s action after
it is secreted by cells. However, the new research could lead to the
development of treatments that would prevent the body from producing
it, resulting in more effective medications and therapies for
“If we understand how this molecule is made in the body, we may
be able to block it before it is produced,” said study author Dr.
Moshe Arditi, executive vice chair of research in the Department of
Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious
Diseases and Immunology. “Until now, this was the missing piece of
Arditi, who also directs Cedars-Sinai’s Infectious and
Immunologic Diseases Research Center, found that damaged
mitochondrial DNA activate specific proteins within dying cells,
triggering the release of interleukin-1beta. Previous research has
shown the molecule, when over-secreted by cells, can be a
significant contributor to major inflammatory diseases.
Three of these diseases alone — atherosclerosis, Type 2 diabetes
and rheumatoid arthritis — affect an estimated 100 million
Americans. Arditi is planning further studies to build on the
Dr Leon Fine, Cedars-Sinai’s vice dean of research and chair of
biomedical sciences, said, “The discovery by Arditi and colleagues
has great potential to impact a wide range of inflammatory diseases,
particularly in their early stages where an intervention could
prevent more severe and debilitating ravages of such diseases. This
discovery, at last, may open the door to such therapy."