LA JOLLA, CA September 15, 2011 Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have found a novel mechanism by which certain viruses such as influenza trigger a type of immune reaction that can severely sicken or kill those infected.
This severe immune reactioncalled a "cytokine storm"floods the tiny air sacs of the lungs with fluid and infection-fighting cells, blocking off airways and damaging body tissues and organs. Cytokine storms are believed to have played a major role in the staggering mortality of the 1918-1919 worldwide influenza pandemic, as well as in the more recent swine flu and bird flu outbreaks.
In a new study published in the September 16, 2011, issue of the journal Cell, a team of Scripps Research scientists have pinpointed the cells that orchestrate cytokine storms, opening up entirely new possibilities for treatment of the condition.
"In the new research, we show directly for the first time that the damaging effects of cytokine storm are distinct from the impact of virus replication and pathological changes in infected cells," said Scripps Research Professor Hugh Rosen, MD, PhD, who led the study with Scripps Research Professor Michael B.A. Oldstone, MD. "The findings provide a new paradigm for understanding influenza and could point the way to new therapies."
"This study has greatly increased our understanding of the biological basis of cytokine storm, opening the door to development of new treatments for this potentially fatal immune reaction," said James M. Anderson, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which provided funds for the work. "This research is an excellent example of scientific discovery facilitated by the NIH Common Fund's Molecular Libraries and Imaging program and of the potential that this discovery provides for targeted new therapies."
New Approach to an Old Foe
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute