"Our work is the first to show that this change in receptors in the body is the first true step in the sepsis syndrome, rather than the introduction of a poison," explains Dr. Platt. "The importance then becomes clear. If we really do now have the first cause of sepsis -- not the bacteria, but the unconstrained receptors -- then we can therapeutically interfere with that receptor release mechanism by designing new treatments and possibly, and at long last, develop drugs that treat all cases of sepsis."
Challenging Existing Theories
Dr. Platt and his colleague, Gregory Brunn, Ph.D., say the evidence they've published compels this conceptual shift about sepsis. "The problem with the concept of sepsis, and what provoked some of our interest, is that it has been known for 10 years that when you treat with anything that interrupts bacterial poisons, it has no impact on the septic disease. That suggests that perhaps the poisons don't cause sepsis after all," Dr. Platt says. "Problems such as this caused us to ask, 'Could there be something else driving sepsis, other than the classic poisoning explanation?'"
Mayo Discovers Key Piece of the Puzzle
Dr. Platt and colleagues discovered several years ago that certain naturally-occurring molecules can stimulate receptors once thought to be exclusive for the bacterial poisons (endotoxins). Once stimulated, the receptors (toll-like receptors) set the sepsis cycle into motion. "This finding was very exciting,"