'It's like a massive explosion'
The work from Storey's group finally organizes what is known about post-trauma inflammation in a way that was necessary to treat the condition, said co-author Ronald Maier, a surgeon and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine who oversaw and coordinated the clinical portion of the IHRI project.
Previous research has shown that about two-thirds of gene sets spring into action in severe trauma patients, making the immune response so overactive and prolonged that it can be deadly. The Princeton researchers have provided a method for discerning from the flood of gene expressions the activity that is central to complications, he said.
"Evolution did not plan on survival in a surgical intensive-care unit," Maier said. "These patients are so injured and the response is so massive that it becomes autodestructive. It's like a massive explosion. It's a constantly changing process, so you can imagine trying to track 15,000 proteins that change over time. This work comes in by introducing a new technique to handle this massive amount of data."
In addition, the Princeton researchers have identified potential drug targets for controlling the immune response that leads to inflammation, Maier said. Past attempts to restrain this reaction have failed due to the complex relationship existing between the thousands of genes and proteins, he said. Experimental drugs focused on specific genes and proteins, sometimes eliminating what turned out to be crucial players and upsetting the system even more, he said.
"In retrospect, approaches to this problem may have been somewhat naive," Maier said. "There are thousands of proteins, and fixing one
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