Researchers at the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have discovered a way to halt excessive inflammation by regulating a type of white blood cell that is crucial to the immune system, potentially protecting the body from unchecked damage caused by inflammatory diseases.
When white blood cells called macrophages are exposed to potent infectious agents, the researchers said, powerful inflammatory proteins known as cytokines are produced to fight the invading infection. But if these cytokine levels get out of control, significant tissue damage can occur.
The researchers have found that a protein called Arginase-2 works through the energy source of macrophage cells, known as mitochondria, to limit inflammation. Specifically, the researchers said they have shown for the first time that Arginase-2 is critical for decreasing a potent inflammatory cytokine known as interleukin-1 (IL-1).
This discovery could lead to new treatments that target the Arginase-2 protein and protect the body from unchecked damage caused by inflammatory diseases, the researchers said.
“Excessive inflammation is a prominent feature of many diseases such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases,” said senior author Dr. Claire McCoy, senior lecturer in immunology at RCSI.
“Through our discovery, we may be able to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory disease and ultimately improve the quality of life for people with these conditions,” said McCoy.
The study, “Mitochondrial Arginase-2 Is Essential for IL-10 Metabolic Reprogramming of Inflammatory Macrophages,” was published by Nature Communications.