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Infection 'alarm' yields clues to immune system behavior

dent in Levchenko's lab and lead author of the journal article.

The researchers also found that as TNF's warning message travels from the surface of a cell to its nucleus, it receives critical help from a molecule called Inhibitor of KappaB Kinase, or IKK. "IKK filters and interprets the warning message," said Cheong, who is an M.D.-Ph.D. candidate in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "It carefully controls the level of the immune system's response."

That makes IKK a very promising target for new medications designed to boost or suppress the immune system, the researchers said. An overactive immune system, for example, can set off the excessive inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In addition, some cancers are more likely to grow where inflammation occurs. These ailments might be helped by a drug that curbs inflammation by reducing the sensitivity of IKK. Still other diseases that are characterized by a weak inflammatory response might be helped by a drug that makes IKK even more sensitive to infection messages.

The researchers believe their computer model of this cellular alarm system, which was refined through lab testing, should be a great help to medication makers. "Models like this are a wonderful tool for experimental drug testing," Levchenko said.


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Source:Johns Hopkins University


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