London, January 28 : Scientists have cleared one of the major obstacles to the development of targeted medicines for autoimmune diseases by uncovering a genetic mechanism that may help halt chronic inflammations.
VIB researchers, connected to Ghent University and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, claim that they are the first to show that MALT1 is able to cleave the A20 protein, which inhibits inflammation.
By counteracting MALT1, believe the researchers, the body's natural inhibition of inflammation can be restored. This may provide an alternative for treatments that tax the immune system, and may lead to a profound improvement over current medicines, they add.
It has long been known that the MALT1 protein plays an important role in initiating inflammation reactions. The VIB team set out to discover exactly what its particular role is.
Their research showed that MALT1 allows the inflammation to progress freely by cutting the A20 protein into pieces. Thus, say the researchers, both proteins play very important parts in fine-tuning the intensity of inflammatory reactions.
According to the research team, it is possible to restore the natural "brake" on the inflammation process by developing new medicines that ocutneract MALT1.
The researchers believe that their findings may also be applied to the typical immunoreactions toward organ transplants or the treatment of cancer, which is caused by genetic defects in MALT1, such as MALT lymphoma.
The findings will be published in the journal Nature Immunology.