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Trauma drama: K-State professor researches drama queen of immune system
Date:8/8/2011

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Kansas State University's Sherry Fleming is investigating the factor that initiates the immune system's "drama queen": the one responsible for intestinal cell damage after hemorrhage.

Fleming, an associate professor in the Division of Biology, is using a $140,000 grant from the American Heart Association to identify the molecule responsible for the overreaction that can cause cell death in the intestines after trauma.

"What's starting this drama queen situation? A 13-year-old girl doesn't usually become a drama queen without a reason. There's something that initiated the drama -- clothes, shoes, make-up, movies, etc.," Fleming said. "With hemorrhage, we're looking for the initiating factor in the drama which occurs after trauma."

After a traumatic event, such as the loss of a limb or severe bleeding, the body cuts off blood flow to the intestines, sending more blood to the vital organs like the heart, lungs and brain, Fleming said. During that time, cells in the gut release molecular markers to let the body know that they are not getting oxygen.

After the trauma is resolved, blood flow is returned to the gut and a protein in the blood -- known as beta2 glycoprotein 1 in mice and apolipoprotein H in humans -- binds to the molecular marker on the cell to notify antibodies that there is a problem. The antibodies then activate a cascade of proteins, known as complement, that normally help the immune system by killing bacteria and helping rid tissues of dying cells. However, after a trauma this system can overreact and unnecessarily kill healthy cells.

"If you've been in a car accident and sever an arm or start hemorrhaging, you want complement there to protect you from bacteria. So we don't want to stop all complement action entirely," Fleming said.

But Fleming is looking for a way to interrupt the chain of events leading to the over activation of complement following a traumatic event, becaus
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Contact: Sherry Fleming
sdflemin@k-state.edu
785-532-6130
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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