'Master switch' for key immune cells in inflammatory diseases found

London, Jan 17 (ANI): Imperial College London scientists have identified a protein that acts as a 'master switch' in certain white blood cells, and governing whether they support or stop inflammation.

The new study could pave way for new treatments for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis that involve excessive inflammation.

Cells of the immune system called macrophages can either stimulate inflammation or suppress it by releasing chemical signals that alter the behaviour of other cells.

A protein called IRF5 acts as a molecular switch that controls whether macrophages promote or inhibit inflammation, according to the study.

The study has suggested that blocking the production of IRF5 in macrophages may help treat autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

In addition, boosting IRF5 levels might help to treat people whose immune systems are compromised.

Previously, researchers from Imperial College London developed anti-TNF treatments, a class of drug that is extensively used for curing rheumatoid arthritis.

Irina Udalova from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College London, the senior researcher on the study, said, "Diseases can affect which genes are switched on and off in particular types of cells. Understanding how this switching is regulated is crucial for designing targeted strategies to suppress unwanted cell responses."

"Our results show that IRF5 is the master switch in a key set of immune cells, which determines the profile of genes that get turned on in those cells. This is really exciting because it means that if we can design molecules that interfere with IRF5 function, it could give us new anti-inflammatory treatments for a wide variety of conditions," said Udalova.

The findings were reported in the journal Nature Immunology.


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